The Stockton Tigers knew defending their championship of the Stockton Invitational would be difficult with the inclusion of one of the better teams in the Ozarks, the New Covenant Academy Warriors.
NCA, a Springfield-based private Christian school, proved worthy of its reputation in the opening game of the tournament Tuesday, April 16, beating Stockton 7-2.
Other games saw NCA over Butler 15-0, Warsaw over Butler 17-7 and NCA over Warsaw 12-2 as the Warriors claimed first place and the Tigers second.
Ryan Rogers singled to lead off the game for the Warriors. He went to second base on a sacrifice and scored on a base hit by Nate Butler.
Stockton tied the game in the bottom of the first as Luke Culbertson tripled to right-center field and scored one out later on a single by Drew Wheeler.
NCA took the lead for good in the fourth inning. Max Breite doubled to left and took third on a sacrifice grounder. Graham Breite walked to put brothers on the corners. Ryan Carmack’s single to left scored Max, and Cam Altena singled to right to plate Graham and Carmack.
The Warriors added two more runs in the fifth. Rogers singled and stole second, was sacrificed to third and scored on a double by Butler, who came around himself moments later on a single by Graham Breite.
The Tigers got a run back in the home half of the fifth as Cole Garretson walked, took second on an error and scored on Wheeler’s single to left field.
NCA added a final tally in the seventh as Max Breite reached on a one-out error went to second on Butler’s single, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a hit by Carmack.
Carmack took the win, pitching six-and-two-thirds innings while allowing four hits, striking out 13, walking two and hitting a batter.
“I think that’s the best pitcher we’ve seen all year,” Tiger coach Darin Henderson said of Carmack. “He’s able to hit spots and throw where he wants with velocity. It felt we were 0-and-1 and 0-and-2 [in the count] the whole night, and it’s hard to hit when you’re 0-1 or 0-2 all night long.”
Culbertson was tagged with the loss, giving up six runs in five innings on eight hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
“We played well tonight, but consistency has been an issue for us,” Henderson said, as the Tigers had dropped four of their last five games to that point.
New Covenant 100 320 1—7 11 1
Stockton 100 010 0—2 4 1
Ryan Carmack, Graham Breite (7) and Cam Altena; Luke Culbertson, Tanner Boyles (6) and Garrett Haden.
Hits: New Covenant — Ryan Rogers 2, Max Breite 2 (2B), Nate Butler 2 (2B), Graham Breite, Ryan Carmack 2, Cam Altena 2. Stockton — Luke Culbertson (3B), Drew Wheeler 2, Tate Wheeler.
Stockton 17, Butler 0 (4)
The Tigers took their frustrations out on the Butler Bears, with a 17-0 pasting in four innings Wednesday, April 17. The Tigers, who were the visiting team after losing a coin flip, scored 10 runs in the top of the fourth, including a two-run homer by Cole Garrettson. All but three starters had multiple hits, with Clayton Hubbard going 3-for-3 with four RBI.
Tate Wheeler allowed two hits and two walks while striking out five.
Stockton 421 (10)—17 18 1
Butler 000 0— 0 2 4
Tate Wheeler and Garrett Haden; Wyatt Cox, Ryan Black (4) and Cody Gabriel.
Hits: Stockton — Luke Culbertson 2, Garrett Haden, Drew Wheeler 3, Clayton Hubbard 3 (2B), Tate Wheeler 3 (2B), Zack Burns 2 (2B), Tanner Boyles, Cole Garretson 2 (HR), Tyler Mehl. Butler — Levi Williams, Layton Gabriel.
Stockton 10, Warsaw 3
Drew Wheeler kept the good times rolling for the Tigers in the second game of the day. After walks to Luke Culbertson and Garrett Haden to lead off against Warsaw, the junior legged out an inside-the-park three-run homer after taking a ball to the center field warning track near the 360-foot sign. Wheeler, who reached home on a headfirst slide, had little doubt he would score.
“When coach [Henderson] was jumping up and down, telling me to go home, I knew I had it,” Wheeler said.
Drew’s brother Tate Wheeler was 3-for-5 with an RBI against the Wildcats. Garrett Haden scored three runs and Tyler Mehl scored twice.
On the mound, Drew Wheeler threw five-and-a-third innings, giving up two unearned runs on seven hits, striking out eight and walking one. A high pitch count and throwing errors in the sixth inning prevented Wheeler from going further.
“They’re scrappy, they play well,” Henderson said of Warsaw. “They made Drew throw a ton of pitches. They put the ball in play and make you work for everything.”
Tanner Boyles finished the pitching duties, inducing a 1-4-3 double play to end the game.
“We found a way to win,” Henderson said. “Drew had to throw over 20 pitches that first inning, and it was our fault. He had a strikeout and we didn’t throw him out at first [after a passed ball by Haden].”
Stockton 302 100 4—10 9 5
Warsaw 000 003 0— 3 9 4
Drew Wheeler, Tanner Boyles (6) and Garrett Haden; Matt Luebbert, Joey Mace (3), Brady Slavens (4), Riley Jelinek (4) and Trey Palmer.
Hits: Stockton — Luke Culbertson, Garrett Haden, Drew Wheeler (HR), Clayton Hubbard, Tate Wheeler 3, Zack Burns, Tanner Boyles. Warsaw — Matt Luebbert, Riley Bagby 2, Jack Gardner 2, Joey Mace, Trey Palmer, Scott Winters (2B), Brady Slavens.
The Tigers (5-6) hosted Fair Grove in Mid-Lakes Conference play Tuesday, April 23, after this issue went to press. They play Bolivar Thursday, April 25, at home, travel Friday, April 26, to Pierce City, and visit Mt. Vernon Monday, April 29, in a make-up game.