After a victory over Waynesville, the Rolla baseball team advanced to the District Semi-Final against Willard on Monday, May 15. The game was a low-scoring, back and forth affair, but Willard had the final run. A walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh ended Rolla's season with a 4-3 loss.
Rolla got off to a strong start with a two run second inning. Zeke Arthur and Noah Doyle both knocked in runs in the inning to get things going for the Bulldogs. Willard responded in the third inning with a run of their own, but things were quiet after that. Robbie Callistro toed the rubber for the Bulldogs and pitched extremely well after pitching just one inning on Saturday. Other than the run in the third, Callistro shut Willard down for the first five innings, but one hiccup in the sixth let the Tigers back into the contest.
With Rolla still clinging to a 2-1 lead, Willard's Cory Watson stepped up with a runner on in the sixth. Watson launched a two run bomb off Callistro, giving Willard their first lead of the contest. Callistro finished the inning, but was pulled for the seventh after allowing three runs, two of which were earned, and striking out 10. He allowed just two hits in the game, but the one home run gave Willard the advantage late. Rolla head coach Marty Hauck praised Callistro's performance on the mound.
"He did a great job for us," said Hauck. "He came in and threw strikes and that's what we needed from him. He wanted this game and threw a great game."
The Bulldog offense let Callistro off the hook with a run in the top of the seventh, tying the ballgame at three on a base hit by Blaize Klossner. Jeremiah Ruth came in an attempt to push the game into extras and he nearly did, but he needed a little more help from his defense.
Willard led off the inning with a single after the ball dropped in the gap between two Rolla outfielders. A sac bunt and a sac fly advanced the runner to third with two outs before Austin Russell dropped in another bloop single for the walk-off to end the ballgame 4-3. Coach Hauck said the end of that game came down to bad luck, as Ruth was doing what he needed to on the mound.
"It was just two bloop hit. Two Texas League hits, that was it," said Hauck. "Jeremiah threw two great pitches and they got enough of the bat on it...just out of reach. The ball didn't fall our way this time."
Despite the loss, coach Hauck is proud of the performance of his team this season. He's a competitive guy so he always wants to see perfection, but he was happy with the effort his team gave this season.
"We had a great season. The record is outstanding. Of course we always say we would've, could've, should've done better, but at the same point in time even in a perfect season I'm probably going to say that," said coach Hauck. "The kids played hard all year, they love the game of baseball and hopefully they learned a lot about the game of baseball and life.
Coach Hauck continued, "We just started to get into our groove. A lot of our rainouts this year effected us, because we just started to get into our groove, I feel. We were starting to come together and click. The seniors have had a lot of turnover at the coaching position and so to have another coach turnover it took them a little while to get adapted to things. At the same point in time, they did a great job for me. I couldn't be prouder."