Jared Hughes pitched six shutout innings and the Tigers rode two big innings to a 7-1 victory over Neosho in the opening round of the district tournament at Joplin. Republic avenged an earlier 3-2 loss to the Wildcats and won its first post-season game since 2015.
“We’re playing a lot better than we were… when we played them the first time,” said coach Curt Plotner. “We have played so well the last two weeks that I think kids are confident… We’ve got more business to take care of.”
Republic took the lead in the top of the third inning when Vincent Pyeatt and Jaden Duvall reached on infield singles, then Tyler Cavener singled home Pyeatt. A throwing error by Neosho’s shortstop with two outs allowed two more unearned runs to score, making it 3-0.
The bottom half of the inning was a key to the Tigers’ victory. Neosho loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score. First baseman Nick Rose threw home to force the lead runner on a groundout, then Hughes retired the next two batters with a strikeout and a comebacker to the mound.
“Jared did a good job of pitching out of that situation. I felt like that was kind of the turning point in the game. I know we’ve been on the other end of that sometimes. And when you’ve got bases loaded, nobody out, and don’t push one across, it’s tough to get back out there,” Plotner said.
The Tigers put the game away with four runs in the sixth inning. Easton Prevo, Jacob Crosswhite, and Carson Neff hit consecutive singles, with Prevo and Crosswhite scoring. Rose followed that up with an RBI double. Pyeatt reached on an infield single, Ryker Harrington walked to load the bases, and Jaden Duvall hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the Tigers’ final run.
Republic had 12 base hits, including two each by Crosswhite, Neff, Rose, and Pyeatt – the bottom four hitters in Saturday’s lineup.
Hughes gave up three hits and three walks, striking out five in six shutout innings. Evan Smith pitched the seventh, allowing an unearned run on three hits to close out the win.
The Tigers are 14-11 heading into a district semifinal game against top-seeded Webb City Monday at 4:30. The Cardinals are 15-11. (Edited to correct next opponent)