First year Rolla head baseball coach Marty Hauck said that he wanted to spark the Bulldog offense this season and so far, it's working. Rolla hosted Father Tolton and Ava on Saturday, Mar. 18. The Bulldogs started the day by beating Father Tolton 8-2 before beating Ava 8-1 later in the day.
The Bulldog offense got off to a great start against Father Tolton, driving in four runs in the opening inning. Tristan O'Neal and Davie Pound got things started with a pair of RBI singles. O'Neal then scored on a past ball and Pounds was driven in on a single by Jonathon Reese.
Meanwhile, Hunter House was performing masterfully on the mound. He went on to pitch three and a third shutout innings with four strike outs. He would get two more runs in support on the mound, when Rolla added another pair in the third. House got into a bit of trouble in the fourth, as two runners reached base with one out, which caused coach Hauck to go to the bullpen. House's spotless ERA would remain in tact, however, thanks to Robbie Callistro. The senior came in and struck out his first batter. A floater dropped into shallow center for a single to load the bases, but Callistro was able to get his second strikeout of the inning to keep the shutout in tact.
Rolla went on to add another pair of runs in the fifth, as Callistro kept things scoreless for Father Tolton on the mound. He pitched a scoreless inning and two thirds in relief.
Zeke Arthur then stepped out from behind the plate and finished the game on the mound. Arthur was cruising into a second inning, but Father Tolton was able to start an offensive run when a runner reached first safely on an error at third before another single with no outs. Rolla was able to get a force at second in the next at bat, putting runners on the corners with one out. Father Tolton was able to steal second when the Bulldog catcher elected to throw down for third for a pickoff, putting runners on second and third with one out. It would end up being the only stolen base Rolla would allow in either game. Arthur looked like he might get out of things to complete the shutout by following the steal with a strikeout, but Tolton was able to line a grounder down the third base line to drive in both runners, only one of which would go as an earned run on Arthur's final stat line. He was able to get out of the inning and end the game without further damage, giving Rolla an 8-2 win.
The final stat line for the game gave the victory to House on the mound. Rolla ended the game with nine strikeouts between their three pitchers and just six hits allowed. Reese tied with Joel Simmons for the team lead in RBI with two in the game, with Simmons going 1-1 at the plate and Reese going 2-3. Trey Sinnot, O'Neal and Pound also each had RBIs in the game, with Pound going a perfect 2-2 at the plate with a double.
Rolla kept the ball rolling both in the batters box and on the mound against Ava. Reese started the Rolla's second game of the day and put on a pitching clinic. He pitched five innings and didn't allow a single hit, but with five walks and seven strikeouts his pitch count was rising. With the new pitching rule, coach Hauck had to make the call to pull Reese in the midst of a no-hitter. Jeremiah Ruth came in to pitch the sixth and allowed Ava's only hits and run of the game, but still pitched well with a pair of strikeouts. Sophomore Blayne Yarger came in to close out the game with a perfect seventh inning, striking out two and allowing no hits and no walks.
Offensively, the Bulldogs racked up another eight hits and eight runs, but four of those runs were unearned against Ava. Arthur drove in a pair with a double, while Noah Doyle and Reese each drove in one of their own. House was a perfect 2-2 at the plate with a walk, scoring in all three plate appearances. He had a double and a triple for his two hits. Rolla took that game 8-1.
Overall, coach Hauck was extremely pleased with what he saw in the Bulldogs' first two games.
"Our kids did a great job of picking up our signs, we stole a lot of bases, we stole home plate, they're definitely getting more aggressive, which is what I like to see at this point of time in the year, picking up my style of offense," said coach Hauck. "It was great to see our kids perform well on the mound. You've gotta throw strikes, obviously in high school baseball and we did that and we had good solid defense behind them. The kids came out and threw strikes. We pulled a kid that threw five innings and had a no hitter going and I pulled him just to see some other arms and it was great to see."
Rolla also got their bats going early, especially against Father Tolton, which is exactly what coach Hauck wanted to see.
"It's a great thing with the new pitching rule I learned a lot from that, what we're gonna have to do is exactly what we did and that was put their pitchers in a bind so they have to turn over into another pitcher for a second, third or possibly even a fourth guy in a game," said coach Hauck. "That makes a huge transition for your bats and we were able to do that and get to their second or third guy a whole lot faster than we would've had we waited a little bit. We got their guy out of a rhythm a little bit by scoring so many runs early."
The Bulldogs also got a lot of help from the back half of their lineup in both games, which Hauck was happy to see.
"The back half of the lineup actually performed a whole lot better than the front half of the lineup did," said coach Hauck. "You know we're going to be putting up a lot of runs if the back half is putting up eight runs in a game, then the top half when they get going on the same cylinder."
Coach Hauck also stressed that he wants to have role players and have this be a team sport and that's what they did in their first two games.
"That's our gameplan and that's what we're gonna do," said Hauck. "I didn't put kids on the team to sit on the bench, I kept them on the team to be a part of the team and these guys are starting to see that right away this is team sport and we need everybody to win and we need everybody on the same page and that's what we're working towards."
But the number one thing coach Hauck wants his team to take from this weekend is that their games are supposed to be fun.
"I want them to have fun. The game of baseball is a ton of fun and I want them to be able to have fun and relax a little bit," said Hauck. "One of the big things they saw is that games should be fun. Practices, that's where we put in the hard work, that's where I do a little bit more yelling, but games that's time to sit back and laugh and have a good time and just do what we do. The kids did a good job of that this weekend."
The Bulldogs will next play in the Four Rivers Tournament. They'll open that against assistant coach Rob Hauck's former team, St. Clair, on Monday, Mar. 20 on the road.