Cloud County Baseball Team Drops Playoff Opener to Neosho; Season on the Line Thursday
Battling back from an early 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead, the Cloud County Community College baseball team would see a six-run top of the seventh by visiting Neosho County Community College be their undoing in what would become a 12-10 home defeat in game one of the 2022 NJCAA Region VI Playoffs at Lee Doyen Field in Concordia, Kansas.
The game one defeat drops Cloud County to 39-16 overall on the year while Neosho County takes a series lead in the best-of-three series and improves to 27-24 overall.
One hit would lead to a run for Neosho in the top of the first as a one-out double into the left-center field gap would be followed by a pair of wild pitches on consecutive at-bats to allow Kade Snodgrass to score and give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The Panthers would then add to their lead with a leadoff double before getting an RBI single as a walk would put two runners on with a run home and still no outs in the top of the second. Making an early move to the bullpen, Cloud County would elect to bring in reliever Conner Woods who would throw a wild pitch to advance both runners before an RBI groundout, strikeout, and pop-out would end the inning and put NCCC up 3-0.
Looking for a response on the offensive side, Cloud County would see redshirt freshman Brock Wollin hit by a pitch before a double-play would allow the Panthers to erase the leadoff base runner. Freshman Tom Poole would then extend the inning with a base hit through the right side of the infield before coming around to score on an RBI double to center field from Garrett Redden before seeing the Sealy, Texas native thrown out at third trying to take an extra-base on the relay throw home.
With the score now at 3-1 in favor of Neosho, Cloud County would get their first defensive one-two-three inning of the game before being held scoreless in their end of the third with an Adler Pierson walk getting stranded at first. The T-Birds would keep the Panthers scoreless for a second-straight inning after working around a one-out single before putting together a rally that would begin with a leadoff solo home run from Danny Infante in the bottom of the fourth. Following Infante's homer, Wollin would be hit by a pitch for a second-straight at-bat before advancing to second on a wild pitch and coming around to score on a Kolden Howerton game-tying RBI double. Another wild pitch would move Howerton to third and allow Poole to hit a go-ahead RBI groundout to the right side of the infield as CCCC would put together three hits and send eight batters to the plate in the inning to take their first lead of the game.
Facing the nine-hole hitter before seeing the lineup turn over, Woods would get a quick out with a strikeout before a one-out single and two-out single would put a pair of runners on base for Neosho County. Working out of the jam, the Winfield, Kansas native would get three-hole hitter Blake Miller to strike out to end the inning and strand both runners. Nothing much would be had by Cloud County in the bottom of the fifth to keep things at a one-run lead for the T-Birds heading into the top of the sixth. Putting a leadoff batter aboard with an error, Neosho would take advantage of the T-Bird mistake to push across the game-tying run with an RBI single before seeing another two runners stranded.
A one-two-three bottom of the sixth for Cloud County would allow the Panthers to get back up to the plate where they would take advantage of a second CCCC pitching change by getting a hit batter, base-hit single, and walk to load the bases with no outs. Pushing the go-ahead run home with a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly would give Neosho a two-run lead and runners on first and second before an RBI single to match their largest lead of the game. The inning would continue for NCCC following another Cloud County change on the mound with a walk and base hit that would see a fourth run in the inning come across as the Panthers would finish the inning with six runs on four hits despite leaving the bases loaded to go up 10-4 heading into the seventh-inning stretch.
Turning a pair of NCCC errors into a run in the bottom of the seventh, Cloud County would attempt to chip away at the now five-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth by getting a solo home run from Poole to knock Panther starter Owen Chaffin out of the game following a 118-pitch performance. After a fly out would put a second out on the board in the inning, back-to-back singles from Ty Wevers and Pierson flipped the lineup over to Willie Ponce who would have a likely two-RBI single taken away on game-changing defensive play from the Panther first baseman to end the inning with a line out.
With the score at 10-6 heading into the top of the ninth, a two-out rally for Neosho would lead to a pair of insurance runs as a walk and double would come around to score on a single to double up Cloud County 12-6. Down to their final three outs of the game and the top of the order due up, CCCC would use an Ian Riley leadoff bunt single and Infante single to put two runners on and no outs. Following a fielding error on a ball hit to the outfield to load the bases, a strikeout would bring Poole to the plate as the Calgary, Alberta, Canada native would hit his second home run of the day with a grand slam to tie a single-season school record with 20 home runs as the once six-run deficit would be cut down to four. A big second out for NCCC would put the T-Birds down to their final out before seeing Wevers extend the game with a base hit before having the game end with the game-tying runner at the plate.
Both teams would finish the game with 14 hits as the 14 hits by Neosho would set a new single-game high by a CCCC opponent in 2022. Offensively, the T-Birds would be led by a six-RBI performance from Poole who would go three-for-five at the plate. Also going three-for-five with an RBI would be Infante as Redden and Wevers would also add two hits each.
Six different pitchers would be used in the game for Cloud County as the staff would combine for 13 total strikeouts with Woods accounting for seven of the strikeouts in five innings of work. The lone T-Bird pitcher to have a scoreless outing would be freshman Brady Stuewe who would be tasked with getting the final out of the seventh and face two batters on nine pitches to do so as a total of 221 pitches would be thrown by CCCC.
Cloud County will put their season on the line tomorrow afternoon at 2 PM against the Panthers as game two of the best-of-three series will take place at Lee Doyen Field. Neosho will be looking to finish the series and advance to next week's portion of the 2022 NJCAA Plains District Tournament while a T-Bird win would force a winner-take-all game three on Friday afternoon.