By Jason Peake
The Webb City Cardinals could never figure out Willard's Grant Harris. As a result, the season came to an abrupt end.
Webb City managed just one hit in Tuesday's 10-1 loss to Willard in a Class 5 prep baseball sectional at Missouri Southern's Warren Turner Field.
Willard (28-6) advances to Thursday's quarterfinals against either Camdenton (17-9) or Glendale (21-7).
"This is exciting for us," Willard coach Scott McGee said.
"We told the kids to not take it for granted, and we told the guys to enjoy every minute of it."
After winning a district championship and finishing second in the Central Ozark Conference standings, the Cardinals end the season at 17-12.
"I'm proud of the way the guys competed all year," Webb City coach Garry Highfill said. "We had a rocky start, but our guys turned it into a pretty good year for us. Our kids showed up and worked hard every day."
In a clash between conference rivals that was moved from Barnes Field to the turf at MSSU because of the recent rain, the Cardinals could never get the bats going.
A hard-throwing 5-foot-10 junior right-hander, Harris allowed just one run on one hit in six efficient innings. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter.
"He's been like that for us all year," McGee said. "He came out and threw really hard today. He was able to dominate with his fastball, and it was good to see."
Harris retired the final 13 batters he faced and tossed just 75 pitches in six frames. He induced six ground outs and two flyouts to go along with his strikeout total.
"The last time he threw against us, we didn't guys on base to put pressure on him," Highfill said. "I told the guys we need to get on base to see how he handles pressure. Tonight, we just didn't get on base enough. He did a good job of controlling the game and forcing us to swing."
After Harris departed, Willard's Eli Stoops pitched a scoreless seventh. The Cardinals did not have a base runner after the second inning.
Willard's Noah Wooldridge and Harris both went 2-for-4 with two RBI, while Missouri recruit Garrett Rice scored three runs.
Senior right-hander Cade Beason was charged with the loss after he surrendered four runs on four hits
The Cardinals struck in the bottom of the first, as sophomore second baseman Treghan Parker tripled to the gap in right-center and then scored on Beason's run-scoring groundout to first base.
The Tigers tied it in the second on Cole Biellier's solo home run to left.
The Cardinals threatened in the bottom half, as Kade Hicks took first after a dropped third strike before Manny Peskar reached on an error. Pinch runner Blake Smith and Peskar both moved into scoring position on stolen bases, but Harris fanned Zach Biastock to end the threat.
"We had a chance there," Highfill said. "If we get those runs in, it might have been a different ballgame. But they worked out of it and it gave them some momentum."
Willard went ahead for good in the third, as Wooldridge and Harris both delivered two-out, run-scoring singles. The Tigers blew game open by pushing across six runs on six hits against three pitchers in the fifth inning.
A fielder's choice drove in the first run before Harris and Tyler Harre both contributed run-scoring singles. A two-run single by Reece Dawson and an RBI single from Jacob Van- Doren made it 9-1.
"They swung the bats well with two strikes," Highfill said of the Tigers. "They battled at the plate and found ways to put balls in play."
In the sixth, Harre's sacrifice fly gave the Tigers a nine-run cushion.
"This is the worst day to be a coach," Highfill said. "For me coming in as a new coach three years ago, these seniors have been with me and they've done everything we've asked them to do. They've worked their tails off. As a coach, you couldn't ask for a better group of guys."
Joplin Globe 05/22/2019 (Used by permission)