May gets busy for area high school, college athletes

Apr. 26—April showers bring May flowers, and this May brings a full bouquet of action for Southwest Missouri sports fans.

And as we scramble to provide coverage for as many of our local teams as possible, there are a few events that stand out as particularly enticing to me.


At the top of my list are MIAA baseball and softball championships.

Softball championships begin Wednesday in Edmond, Oklahoma, with a stacked field that includes four nationally ranked teams in No. 5 Central Oklahoma, No. 9 Pittsburg State, No. 12 Rogers State and No. 24 Washburn.

Missouri Southern finished as runner-up to Central Oklahoma in last year's tournament.

I always feel a little cheated by the MIAA softball championships, which play out at one site in a single-elimination format, whereas baseball's top seeds get to host a three-game first-round series and advance to a double-elimination format at one site.

I'm calling shenanigans on that one!

But there's still time to show support for the Lions softball team (31-20, 11-13) here at home as they host Newman for a doubleheader Saturday with games beginning at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Pat Lipira Field.

The No. 9 MSSU baseball team begins its quest for an MIAA tournament title as a likely No. 2 seed with a three-game series against an as-yet to be determined seventh seed in a best-of-three game series beginning Friday at Warren Turner Field.

The tourney features another strong field of teams, with the second-ranked team in the nation in Central Missouri, No. 9 Southern and No. 20 Central Oklahoma.

The Lions close out their regular season this weekend with a three-game series against No. 2 UCM in Warrensburg.

Rounding out a busy week for Lion athletics is the MIAA track and field championships, which get underway on Friday, May 3, and continue through Sunday in Maryville.

Southern men enter the meet as the third-ranked team in the conference; Southern women come in as the fourth-ranked squad.

High school

On the prep side, the brackets are set for the Class 2 District 6 softball tournament, which gets underway Thursday in Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon's Spirit of 76 Park provides a great venue for softball and it is well worth the trip to see one of the best teams in the state in the Diamond Wildcats. The top-seeded Wildcats are the top-ranked team in the state and are currently unblemished at 31-0. They will play No. 8-seed Pierce City (1-18) in their first-round game on Friday.

Host Mount Vernon (23-8) is ranked third in the state and earned the No. 2 seed for the district tourney. They will play No. 7 Sarcoxie (4-16) on Thursday. Other area teams include No. 3-seed East Newton, No. 4 Lamar, No. 5 Southwest-Washburn and No. 6 College Heights.

The Central Ozark Conference track and field meet will kick off the month of May as local teams vie for the conference title and all the bragging rights that go with it on Thursday at Joplin High School.

Webb City fields strong squads on both the boys and girls sides, but don't bet against the Joplin Eagles, who have shown flashes of brilliance at several meets this season.

While some sports are entering postseason play next week, there are some compelling regular season match-ups still left for area teams.

Chief among those is a Webb City-Willard baseball matchup on Thursday that features the No. 1 ranked team in Class 5 against the third-ranked team in Class 5. No. 3 Webb City is currently 17-6 and 6-1 in the COC. No. 1 ranked Willard is 21-3 and undefeated at 7-0 in the COC.

Post season for other sports get underway the next couple of weeks, so plan ahead to go catch your favorite team in action.

It'll be well worth your time.