With third place on the line in the 17th Annual Carl Junction Post 781 AAA American Legion Baseball Invitational, the Carthage Merchants will take on Springfield Hillcrest today at 3:30 p.m.
Carthage finished 2-1 in pool play, defeating McDonald County 8-3 on Wednesday night, beating Webb City 10-2 on Friday and falling to Monett 8-0 Saturday afternoon.
Carl Junction and Monett will play at 5:30 p.m. today for first place.
Before the offensive attack fell short on Saturday, the Merchants had scored 18 runs in 12 innings and collected 26 hits in the span. The most-impressive performance came Friday night against rival Webb City.
Carthage scored four runs early on and kept Webb City off the scoreboard until the bottom of the third when a hit batter, two singles, two walks and two wild pitches cut the Carthage lead to 4-2.
The Merchants threatened in the top of the fourth when Keaton Giett and Jonathan Terry each reached base on errors with two outs. That put runners on first and third, and Giett scored when Terry stole second and the catcher tried to throw him out.
The 5-2 cushion was more than enough for Carthage starter Mark Ryan, who worked around a one-out walk in the bottom of the fourth by striking out the final two batters.
Carthage added to its lead in the fifth. Kyle Lee was hit by a pitch, and pinch runner Tyler Talley advanced to third when consecutive singles to center field by Blaine Diggs and Dalton Dyer loaded the bases.
That brought up Greene, who was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Mason Goade then hit into a fielder’s choice and Webb City got the force out at home, but Giett followed with a line drive single to left field to plate two more runs. Giett advanced to second on the throw home.
Terry followed with a sacrifice groundout to make it 9-2 Carthage, then the Merchants added another run with an infield single. At that point, leading by eight runs in the fifth, all Carthage had to do was retire Webb City in the bottom of the fifth, and Ryan did just that.
“Mark was on,” Carthage head coach Jason McVey said. “He worked himself out of a lot of troubles. He showed his maturity and worked out of a lot of jams. Had the bases loaded twice.”
McVey was equally pleased with the offense.
“We’ve been scoring quite a few runs in the first inning,” he said. “We can jump ahead of opponents, and we’re starting to come together. Twenty six hits in two games, that’s quite an impressive number for such a young team.”
Carthage returns home for two seven-inning games Tuesday night against Carl Junction at Carl Lewton Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.