Jun. 6—Ahead of the summer season, Joplin Outlaws head coach Chris Dawson believed his team’s ability out in the field would give it a chance in most ballgames.
That belief proved more than true in the Outlaws’ second game of the MINK League campaign on Saturday night.
The web gems were aplenty for Joplin as it stifled the Des Moines Peak Prospects’ offense for a 5-1 win at Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin. The triumph moved the Outlaws to 2-0 in the season while the Prospects fell to 0-4.
“Any time you can play defense like that, you’re going to have a chance to win on any given night,” Dawson said. “We made some outstanding plays out in the field, and that’s something we know this team is capable of.”
Des Moines recorded seven hits and drew five walks but wound up stranding nine runners on the base paths.
It wasn’t until the top of the seventh inning that Des Moines got on the scoreboard with a one-run single by Bryce Hall to pull to within 3-1. But the Outlaws added two insurance runs in the eighth on a throwing error, and the Prospects went scoreless in the final two innings.
Joplin drew first blood in the bottom of the second when Calen Protaskey drove a deep fly out to left field for a solo home run in his first plate appearance of the season.
The Outlaws preserved their 1-0 lead in the top of the third thanks to a defensive highlight by Jeb Jenkins. With one out and Des Moines runners positioned on third and second, Jenkins gloved a fly ball in shallow right field and then threw out a runner attempting to take home to end the inning.
The Prospects threatened yet again in the fourth by placing runners on third and first with no outs. But again, the Joplin defense worked out of the jam by recording three consecutive outs — one on a throw to home by third baseman Cade Lott, another on a flyout to center and the final on a groundout to third.
Lawson Faria extended the Joplin lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth on an infield single up the middle that plated Cade Lott from third.
Joplin center fielder Ethan Lopez added to his team’s defensive highlight reel with a diving catch to record the first out of the fifth inning. Then two batters later, first baseman Jared Toler gloved a hard-hit liner and stepped on first base to retire another Des Moines player for a frame-ending double play.
Lopez, a native of Fort Osage, Missouri, also had a sliding catch on a line drive to shallow center in the seventh to protect a 3-1 Outlaws lead. The catch denied at least one run to Des Moines, which had runners on third and first on the play.
“We have some guys on the team who want to win the league title, and we’re willing to put our bodies on the line every pitch,” Lopez said. “On both of those plays, I knew we were in a tight spot and I needed to make the catch. I was the guy who wanted it the most.”
The bottom of the fifth inning saw Toler push the Joplin lead to three runs on a single through the right side that plated Lopez from second. Lopez, who led off the frame with a single to center, finished the night 3-for-4 with one run scored while Toler went 2-for-3 with a walk, one RBI and one run scored.
The Outlaws outhit the Prospects 8-3 through five complete.
“The early offense definitely helps,” Dawson said. “That also goes back to our defense and pitching. When you score two or three runs and continue to frustrate the other team with your pitching and defense, those two or three runs seem a lot bigger.”
The offensive frustrations continued for Des Moines in the sixth. The Prospects seemingly caught a break when leadoff hitter Brook Heinen reaches safely on Joplin’s first error of the game. But that was followed by a strikeout and then a double play at second to end the frame.
Missouri Southern righty and Carl Junction native Jeremiah Kennedy earned the win after tossing four scoreless innings. He surrendered just three hits and struck out one batter.
Masayuki Maruhashi and Reese Weaks tossed a combined three scoreless, hitless innings in relief for Joplin. Jack O’Brien limited Des Moines to one earned run in two innings of work.
The Outlaws play host to St. Joseph at 7 p.m. Sunday at Joe Becker Stadium.
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.