By Jason Peake
The Webb City Cardinals kept their conference title hopes alive by earning a 5-1 victory over the Neosho Wildcats on Friday afternoon in a rain-shortened prep baseball clash at Barnes Field.
It was the final Central Ozark Conference contest for both teams.
Webb City hiked its COC record to 7-2. Nixa is 7-1 in conference play, with a game against Republic still on the slate.
"We needed a win today just to have a shot," Cardinals coach Garry Highfill said. "Now, we're counting on Republic to knock off Nixa to put us in a two-way tie. Our kids have done a great job of battling through conference play. And right now, at least we still have a chance at the crown."
Webb City's Cole Gayman earned the pitching victory. A junior right-hander, Gayman limited the Wildcats to a single tally on seven hits in five innings while striking out five.
"He came out and threw well," Highfill said. "There were borderline pitches that didn't go his way, but I thought he threw a really good game. He's really stepped up with several good outings. He's developed into a nice pitcher for us."
Neosho sophomore southpaw Wyatt Keplar was charged with the loss. In his first varsity start for Danny Powers' squad, Keplar kept his team in the game, as he scattered seven hits.
The Cardinals pushed across a run in the second when junior first baseman Cale McCallister singled to right, stole second and third and came home on an error.
The Wildcats got on the board in the top of the fifth after recording fourstraight singles, with A.C. Marion's RBI single up the middle driving in Gage Kelley.
The visitors then had the bases loaded with only one out, but Gayman maneuvered out of trouble by fanning both Brett Cook and Tre Letts.
The Cardinals added three runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Two runs came home on a fielder's choice off the bat of Cade Beason and the ensuing throwing error. Later in the frame, Parker charged home when Bryson Matthews was caught in a rundown between first and second.
"We found ways to get runners on today and we moved them up and advanced them," Highfill said. "We're trying to get geared up for districts, so that was good to see."
The game went into a short lightning delay before a downpour began that resulted in the rest of the game being called off.
Neosho (9-14, 4-5 COC) is scheduled to play twice at Staley High School today, with games against Jefferson City and Grain Valley.
Webb City is at Hillcrest at 11 a.m. today.
The Cardinals earned the No. 1 seed for the Class 5 District 11 tournament.
Webb City will open tourney play against either No. 4 Neosho or No. 5 Republic at 4:30 on Monday, May 13 at Joplin High School.
"We all went into the seed meeting with similar records, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out," Highfill said. "The No. 1 and No. 2 spots are pretty much the same. The big thing is the bye saves you an arm."
Joplin Globe 05/04/2019 (Used by permission)