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Woodland uses extra effort to beat Advance
Cardinals junior Neil Johnson struck out 13 batters in relief as Woodland won 6-4 in nine innings
ADVANCE, Mo. -- Neil Johnson starts his share of games on the mound for the Woodland baseball team.
But Johnson prefers to relieve, and Thursday he was dominant in that role during an extra-innings win for the Cardinals.
Johnson struck out 13 over the final 6 2/3 innings, helping Woodland slip past host Advance 6-4 in nine innings.
The Cardinals improved to 8-11, while the Hornets fell to 3-16 in the battle of Stoddard County Conference rivals.
"It's a good win for us," Johnson said.
Especially since the Cardinals were missing three of their four seniors, who were on a senior trip. That group included Jesse Long, who leads Woodland in batting average, doubles, triples and RBIs.
Without those seniors, Woodland started five freshmen. Coach Jason Crane said two freshmen normally start.
"People were thinking, with all the freshmen, we couldn't do it," Johnson said. "The freshmen stepped up. I'm proud of them."
Johnson also stepped up as he relieved freshman starter C.J. McAllister with one out in the third inning. Woodland led 2-0, but Advance was threatening with two on and one out.
Johnson went on to give up two hits in the frame -- including a two-RBI double by Preston Beal -- as the Hornets scored four unearned runs thanks to three errors. Two of the runs were charged to McAllister, with two charged to Johnson.
Advance barely touched Johnson the rest of the way, getting a fourth-inning single but no hits over the final five frames.
"Johnson is tough," Advance coach Jim Below said.
Johnson, a hard-throwing junior right-hander, retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. He walked three in addition to allowing the three hits.
"I like relieving. I like to close stuff down," Johnson said. "I felt great."
Said Crane: "Neil is more comfortable coming in in relief. When he has his location, he can be a dominant pitcher."
With two senior hurlers away on the trip, Crane turned to McAllister as the starter. McAllister allowed one hit in 2 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two.
McAllister also delivered the game-winning hit in the top of the ninth inning.
Freshman Cody Miles reached on an error to start the ninth and moved to second on a wild pitch. McAllister followed with an RBI single to center field.
"I haven't been hitting the ball too well," McAllister said. "I got a perfect pitch to hit."
McAllister, who advanced to second on an outfield error, scored an insurance run on a single by Justin James, the lone Woodland senior on hand Thursday.
That two-run cushion was more than enough for Johnson, who retired Advance in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Also turning in a strong pitching performance was Advance junior right-hander Grant Gray. He worked the first seven innings and did not figure into the decision.
Gray allowed six hits while striking out 11 and walking four. Only one of the four runs he gave up was earned.
"Grant did a good job," said Below, whose squad started three freshmen Thursday.
Woodland scored the only two earned runs in the game. Advance committed four errors and the Cardinals had three, all in the third inning.
Woodland had nine hits, led by David Gray with three. James and freshman Dillon Miller added two hits apiece. Miller doubled.
Beal had two of Advance's four hits, including the two-run double in the third inning that put the Hornets ahead. Woodland tied it with two unearned runs in the fifth inning.
"I thought our younger kids showed a lot of mental toughness," Crane said.
WP -- Neil Johnson. LP -- Ryan Moses. 2B -- Dillon Miller (W), Preston Beal (A). Multiple hits -- Woodland: David Gray 3-4, Miller 2-4, Justin James 2-4. Advance: Beal 2-4. Records -- Woodland 8-11, Advance 3-16.