Bulldogs to host Columbia Rock Bridge in Class 5 Sectional play Tuesday.
The second-seeded Rolla High School baseball team sure picked a good time to play their best ball of the season.
The Bulldogs became district champions for the first time since 2009 on Tuesday, knocking off fourth-seeded Springfield Hillcrest 7-5 Tuesday in the championship game of the Missouri Class 5 District 10 Tournament.
Rolla, 18-10, will host Missouri Class 5 Sectional action next week on FCNB Field at the Bray Sports Complex. The Bulldogs will host District 9 champion Columbia Rock Bridge (20-12) on Tuesday, May 27. Rock Bridge defeated Jefferson City 5-0 in the District 9 championship game on Wednesday.
The Hillcrest Hornets, which had upset top-seeded Lebanon in the semifinals, ends the season with a 11-18 mark.
“Without question, first and foremost we’re excited for the kids,” said RHS head coach Karl Odenwald. “They have put a lot of work in - and that goes back to early November. Our core group has worked very hard to get to this point.”
And on Tuesday the Bulldogs had to work very hard to get past the pesky Hornets, who had taken a 4-1 lead after four innings.
Each team scored a solo run in the first, with Rolla’s coming in the bottom of the frame when junior Andy Satulla singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Bryan Peach, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI double from senior Seth Stevens.
Hillcrest regained the lead with two runs in the top of the second and added to that advantage with a run in the third.
The Bulldogs tied things up 4-4 with three runs in the fifth. Peach singled and Stevens walked ahead of an RBI single from junior Dalton Turner. A wild pitch then scored Stevens and junior Cameron Clayton tied the game with an RBI single.
Again the Hornets regained the advantage with a run in the sixth.
However, RHS took the lead for keeps with three more runs in the sixth. On the first pitch of the inning junior Jake Stephens raked a double, causing Hillcrest to make a pitching change.
Satulla then walked and Peach laid down another sacrifice bunt. The Hornet pitcher fielded Peach’s bunt but fired the ball into the outfield for an error, scoring both Stephens and the speedy Satulla. That also allowed Peach to move to third base.
Rolla’s final run in the inning came when junior Collin Nash executed a suicide squeeze bunt, plating Peach.
Bulldog starting and winning pitcher, junior Mason Pickrell, shut Hillcrest out over the seventh inning to secure the district crown.
Stevens and Clayton each had two hits and an RBI for the balanced RHS offensive attack. Each team produced 10 hits.
Pickrell survived seven innings, allowing 10 hits and three walks while fanning two.
The last time Rolla captured a district title, the Bulldogs defeated Eureka in the district championship game in 2009. RHS then lost to DeSoto in sectional competition.
The Bulldogs are likely to be the underdog. Rock Bridge shut out a Jefferson City squad that shut out Rolla 11-0 on April 23 in Jefferson City. RHS has not yet played Rock Bridge this year. Jefferson City finished with a 22-7 mark this season.
“We’ll go in as underdogs and we’re fine with that,” Odenwald said. “Whichever team puts all three phases of the game together is going to be in a position to win.
“The last three or four weeks we’ve got consistent outings from our pitchers. And we’re not beating ourselves defensively. You’ve just got to be hot for four games at this point. We’re excited to have the opportunity.”