Beverlin leads Cardinals past Tigers in top-5 matchup of Class 5 teams

May 3—Friday evening featured a matchup of top 5 baseball teams in Class 5 in Missouri, and it did not disappoint.

No. 4 Webb City grabbed a 2-0 lead over No. 1 Willard in the first inning at Chuck Barnes Field in Webb City. Cardinals pitcher Luke Beverlin went the distance and held the Tigers to one unearned run as he led the team to a 3-1 victory.

"We knew it was going to be a tough matchup for us," Webb City head coach Andrew Doennig said. "It was good to see our kids play with a lot of emotion and a lot of energy. That's something we hadn't done in a while."

"It was a really good high school baseball game," Willard head coach Scott McGee said. "(Beverlin) pitched a really good game."

This win means Webb City will share a Central Ozark Conference title with Willard if the Tigers beat Joplin on Monday. If Willard loses that game, the Cardinals will be outright COC champions.

It wasn't smooth sailing for Beverlin by any stretch. The lefty had to work through some traffic at times, especially in the seventh inning as Willard loaded the bases with no outs.

"I just trusted my guys. I want to thank the Lord for giving me an opportunity to do this," Beverlin said.

Willard led off the final frame with a double from Jacob Hearon. Then Beverlin walked the first batter of the game when Peyton Gayer stayed disciplined and watched four of five pitches go by out of the zone.

Rowden LeJeune bunted the first pitch he saw, and Beverlin and third baseman Shull both hesitated as they thought one another would get the ball, which allowed everyone to be safe at their bases.

That called for a mound visit from coach Doennig.

Beverlin got a pop out to Shull in foul territory. A soft liner into right field wasn't deep enough to score the runner at third. And then Beverlin capped the inning and game with a strikeout.

"I'm just thankful he let me keep going, really," Beverlin said. "I struggled a little to throw strikes, but I got the job done. That was huge. Anything else and they're scoring."

The first inning saw the Cardinals pick up three hits, and it was highlighted by an RBI-double from Shaun Hunt and a Hunter Shull single that drove Hunt in. Andrew Young led off the inning with a hit and was driven in by Hunt.

Hayden Larson pitched into the sixth inning for Willard after allowing the two early runs. Larson held Webb City's offense in check until that sixth frame.

Shadrach Salazar dug into the box to begin the inning. He watched a high fastball go by to begin the at-bat. The next fastball he got ended up over the fence in center field.

"I was just sitting fastball, adjusting to off-speed," Salazar said. "He got me with the off-speed my first at-bat, so I knew he would throw it to me a lot, but I was just sitting fastball. Dead red. ... I was just happy to come through for my team. He threw me a good pitch, and I put a good swing on it. Glory to God."

Salazar singled between his first at-bat and the home run on an off-speed pitch on the outside part of the plate, maybe even off the plate.

"Off-speed just off the plate. I had two strikes and had to battle and find a way to get a hit," he added. "Definitely gave me a boost of confidence."

Hunt and Salazar led the Cardinals' offense with two hits apiece. The home run was Salazar's first of the season.

The game was quiet between the first and sixth innings as both Larson and Beverlin worked around base runners and kept both offenses off the board.

Beverlin had this to say about beating the top-ranked team in Class 5: "It feels awesome. It doesn't mean anything, though. We still have to keep winning."