Eagles begin 2024 baseball season with 2 victories

Mar. 17—Joplin got its baseball season started Saturday during a home meeting with Holister and Lebanon.

The Eagles met Hollister first and cruised to a 19-0 win and then took care of Lebanon in a 6-2 final after the Tigers and Yellow Jackets played one another in the second game of the day.

Joplin will take this 2-0 start into Kansas on Tuesday to face St. Mary's Colgan for a 4:30 p.m. game.

Head coach Kyle Wolf talked about his team and what he expects for the 2024 season.

"The good thing about this year's team is there's a lot of guys that are going to have opportunity to contribute and do some good things," Wolf said. "Our five seniors are doing a great job of leading and kind of showing our guys the way a little bit."

Hard work and competitiveness in preseason practices led to productivity for the Eagles.

"It's a year with a lot of new faces and a lot of youth so it's exciting to see guys competing for those positions while supporting each other at the same time," Wolf added.

One of those areas of supportive competition comes at the catcher position. Sophomore Daniel Rose got the start behind the plate to open the season against Hollister, but coach Wolf noted that Garrett Howard and Dominic Leesman will also get time as the backstop of the team.

"As time goes, we will get a little more set in the way toward the end of the year and be at our best," Wolf said. "That's one of those positions where we've got a lot of good kids that are competing hard and working hard for each other and with each other to make us the best that we can be."

Wolf said his team's goal is just to keep improving throughout the year. As the Eagles look to do that and not hit their peak in the middle of the year, the coach believes they can be a threat come postseason as long as they're playing their best baseball in May.

"If we do that at the end of the year, we feel like we're going to be one of those teams that no one wants to play," Wolf said. "That's ultimately our goal. If our name shows up on that bracket next to yours, you're thinking 'Dang, that's a tough out.'"

Wolf says a key to every season is being able to pitch the ball well and throw strikes. Joplin will hang its hat on that part of the game, but so far there have been plenty of bright spots with the defense in the field. He noted that the team will be working this year to find its identity on offense.

Joplin 19, Hollister 0The first game of the year served as an opportunity to show some of the Eagles' depth that Wolf is talking about. Sixteen different batters got to stand in the box and face their first pitching of the season, and two different pitchers took the mound in the three-inning game.

Joplin earned eight hits, drew 11 walks and had four batters hit by a pitch. Those eight base hits came from Layne Royle (outfielder), Caden Shoemaker (shortstop), Cole Lawrence (outfielder), Brock Waghorn (first base), Rose, Peyton Swenson (pinch hitter), Leesman (designated hitter) and Braxon Gough (outfielder).

Brecken Green started the game on the mound for the Eagles and pitched two innings, allowed just one hit and struck out one batter. Senior Oliver Bortz recorded the final three outs of the game and earned a strike out with one.

"That was awesome. First game of the year and to get that many people involved in the game," Wolf said. "I was really happy with the way the kids played and the energy they came to the park with this morning."

Ceagan Riewski had the lone hit for Hollister in the game.

Joplin 6, Lebanon 2The Eagles broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fifth with a four-run inning to give starter Presley Ledford a 6-2 lead heading into the sixth inning.

Ledford shut down the Yellow Jackets' lineup and then Waghorn came in and shut it down in the seventh to earn the 6-2 victory.

Lebanon got out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, but Joplin immediately responded with a run of its own in the bottom half of that frame.

The Eagles then took a brief lead in the home half of the fourth at 2-1 before seeing that lead slip in the top of the fifth.

Joplin got two hits from Shoemaker, Leesman and Swenson in the game. Leesman got the start at catcher in Game 2 of the day and drove in two runs to lead the offense in RBIs. Ledford scored twice to lead the team in runs along with courtesy runner Cooper Williams.

Ledford's final line on the mound was six innings, six hits allowed and two walks for just two earned runs. He struck out six batters. Waghorn allowed just one hit in his one inning of work.