The Cassville Wildcats finished up what was an altogether good season this past week. The 'Cats played Branson last Tuesday in their first game of the district tournament.
Cassville came in as the fifth seed with a record of 13-6 and on a three-game winning streak. Branson was the fourth seed with a 7-8 record. The tournament was held at Bolivar High School, and during the opening game, 20- to 25-mile-per-hour winds were blowing into the stadium.
|The Wildcats started the game out quickly. Kason Koelsch led off with a single and got the ball rolling. Ryan Rowley had the big hit of the inning with a two-run double. Cassville put four runs across in the first, giving them the big lead. However, Branson wanted some immediate revenge.||The Pirates sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first and got three runs of their own. In the second inning, Branson's pitcher settled down, and although a double by Koelsch found its way to the outfield grass, no other balls did, leaving the score at 4-3 in favor of Cassville.|
The Pirates led off the bottom half of the second with a single. Kelby Haynes, Cassville's starting pitcher, got the next batter to ground out but an error and then two base hits left Cassville on the bottom side of a 5-4 score.
Both the third and fourth innings were scoreless. The Wildcats were blanked again in the fifth, but the Pirates were not. A double by the Branson right fielder put him in scoring position with one out.
Haynes then got the next batter to ground out, giving the 'Cats two outs. Technically the fourth batter struck out; however, the ball hit the dirt on the Branson player's swinging strike and so a throw out at first was required. The 'Cats could not make the play and the base-runner scored. Branson then scored two more in the inning to extend their lead to 8-4.
Cassville's last offensive threat came in the sixth. Jody Cavness reached base on an error then Cory Howard hit a single to put two on base with no outs. Once again though, Cassville could not come up in the clutch. Two of the next three batters struck out and the other grounded out to end the inning.
Branson then scored three insurance runs in the bottom of the inning, and the 'Cats went quickly in the seventh and lost 4-11.
"We felt pretty good in the first inning, jumping on them for four runs," said Coach Rod Hemphill. "We just couldn't get a big hit to score anymore runs."
Haynes started on the mound for the Wildcats. He threw five innings, giving up five walks, eight hits and eight runs with only four earned. He also struck out two. Cassville's ace threw 129 pitches, 71 of which were strikes.
Michael Baker came in and relieved in the sixth inning. Baker threw one inning, giving up two walks, two hits and three earned runs.
|Branson's pitcher Bo Helsel was tough to beat after the first inning. Helsel pitched seven innings, giving up eight hits and three walks to the 'Cats. He also struck-out six.||Jantzen Harrison was the toughest Branson player though. Harrison, the Pirates lead-off hitter, went three-for-four against Cassville with three runs, three RBI, a stolen base and a hit by pitch.|
Cassville's offense was led by Koelsch, who had been on a tear near season's end. He continued his good batting, going two-for-three at the plate with an intentional walk, a run and a double. Koelsch also had a good defensive play in the field.
Tim Orrell and Rowley also did well. Orrell was one-for-four with a run and two outstanding defensive plays. Rowley went one-for-three, hitting one double and two RBI. Other hitters for Cassville included: Haynes, Cavness and Howard.
Branson's pitcher seemed to have a good amount of pitches. His pitch list consisted of a four-seam fastball, curveball, two-seam fastball, slider and a change-up.
The strike zone seemed a little fickle in the game, as many observers noted it moving around. There were a total