The Rolla baseball team (10-3) hosted the top ranked Class 5 team in the state when they welcomed Jefferson City (14-2) into town on Wednesday, April 19. The ballgame went back and forth, but a three run fourth inning for Jeff City proved to be the difference maker in a 5-3 Rolla loss.
Walks were Rolla's biggest kryptonite on Wednesday night. Jeff City scored in three different innings and all of those innings started with a leadoff walk. The Jays reached on a leadoff walk to start the first inning before a steal and a pair of passed balls led to the first run of the game. Rolla starter Robbie Callistro was able to get out of the first without taking more damage, but that set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs were able to tie the game in the bottom of the second. Noah Doyle led off the inning with a single and was able to score on a double by Davie Pound to knot the game at one. Jeff City then came right back in the top of the third after another leadoff walk led to an unearned run to retake the lead. But Rolla kept fighting back. They were able to tie the game again in the bottom of the frame thanks to a leadoff home run from Brett Gonzalez.
The back and forth nature continued in the top of the fourth. Yet another leadoff walk helped jumpstart a three run inning for the Jays. Jeff City only needed two hits to score three runs in the inning before Callistro was relieved by Hunter House. The normally steady Callistro had some uncharacteristic issues with control, as he walked six batters and didn't record a strikeout in four and a third innings of work. He allowed five runs, three of which were earned, on just three hits. Hunter House came in and got the Bulldogs out of jam with two outs, but the damage was done.
Rolla added another run in the fifth. Zeke Arthur had a double for the Bulldogs and scored on a single by Zach Studdard. Studdard was a bit over-eager on the basepaths and was thrown out at second to end the inning when trying to get into scoring position.
Rolla actually edged Jeff City in the hits department with eight. They held Jeff City to just four hits, but walks helped the Jays get more runs across. The Bulldogs just didn't get the hits they needed with runners in scoring position. They also struck out 11 times in the loss.
"At the end of the day, they won two innings and we won two innings," said Rolla head coach Marty Hauck. "So we're right there in the hunt...right now, we're kinda sporadic. We need to be more timely in our hitting. We're getting guys on and we're getting them in scoring position, but we're not getting the base hit when they're in scoring position. We struck out 11 times last night, they struck out two. Seven of our 11 we didn't even swing the bat on the third strike, they were looking. We've gotta swing the bat. When we swing the bat, good things are happening. When we're not swinging the bat, we're chasing ourselves out of the game."
Even in the loss, coach Hauck thinks his players outperformed the Jays. Hopefully that leads to a boost in confidence, despite the loss.
"I think we played better than them. Statistically, obviously the runs, we didn't get a hit when time-wise we needed it the most, other than that we outplayed them defensively and offensively," said Hauck. "We didn't get that one hit when we needed it. We doubled their hit count, the errors were the same for both teams. They gave up three walks and we gave up six walks and two hit batters. You can't defend a walk and that's the game of baseball."
While Callistro took the loss, coach Hauck isn't concerned with his senior on the mound. This was just a rough game that was a major outlier from the norm.
"Robbie is a good pitcher, obviously, he's one of our best pitchers on our staff. (Six walks) and no strikeouts. He didn't strike out a single guy," said Hauck. "I don't think that's ever happened in his career and I don't think it will again. To give up six walks and a hit batter, that's completely opposite of him statistically."
Rolla will go from one of the toughest games for them from a baseball perspective to one of the most interesting off the field. Next up for Rolla is a trip to coach Hauck's old stomping grounds in St. James on Friday, April 21. He's looking forward to seeing a convergence of the old and the new.
"I'm excited because I wanna watch these kids play," said coach Hauck. "I've watched the St. James kids play since they were six, I've watched the Rolla kids since they were six and local baseball, I think, is getting better. It's gonna be a fun game to watch and a fun game to be a part of. Hopefully the rain holds off, just because I don't know how many make up days that either team has. Hopefully we can get the game in and it's gonna be exciting on a personal level for sure to watch both teams and all the kids play."