The ninth ranked Rolla baseball team (22-6-1) had the chance to exact a little revenge against Lebanon, who edged the Bulldogs for the two seed in Districts, when the two faced off in the District Semi-Final on Monday, May 14. The Bulldogs were able to hold on for a great 4-1 win, but head coach Marty Hauck said the seeding had nothing to do with it.
"Their mindset going in was that it didn't matter if we were the bottom seed or the top seed, we needed to score early," said coach Hauck. "We were the visitors because we were the bottom seed, so we knew we needed to score early and we put up two in the first."
Like Hauck said, the Bulldogs got started with two runs in the first inning before adding runs in the in the second and fourth. That fast start made things a lot easier on Rolla.
"That was big. That was a big moment," said Hauck. "Lebanon had been off for a week and we had played games during that week, so our mission was to score first, put them in a bind and get them off to a slow start."
It's always easier to pitch with a lead and senior starter Levi Loughridge took that 2-0 lead in the first and ran with it. Loughridge pitched five excellent innings, allowing just three base hits. One run came across to score with Loughridge on the mound and he struck out nine batters to earn the win. Fellow senior Jonathan Reese came in to close out the game, throwing two perfect innings, while striking out three to earn the save.
"Our seniors definitely stepped up to the plate on the mound and at the plate," said the Rolla head coach. "Levi did an outstanding job throwing strikes. He had nine strikeouts, six in a row at one point in time. He did a phenomenal job of keeping the ball down and keeping the hitters off balanced. The Reese came in and completely slammed the door."
The Bulldog bats were also on point and they were led by another senior in Brett Gonzalez. The Rolla centerfielder was a perfect 4-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI, while also scoring a run. Fellow senior Joel Simmons also drove in a pair of runs, while Will Bolyard, Noah Doyle and Blayne Yarger each added base hits. Rolla had eight hits on the night and showed great patience at the plate to walk seven times in the win.
"At the plate, Brett Gonzalez going 4-4. He did a phenomenal job leading us at the plate," said coach Hauck. "Guys were just executing, getting on base, moving runners over. Our bunts were executed perfectly. Guys just did their jobs."
The win sets up a District Championship rematch with Willard, which was played on Tuesday. Results from that contest were not available at press time. Coach Hauck said the key to coming out with a win would be to fight through adversity, just like they have all season.
"They're gonna put us in adverse situations, so we've got to handle the adversity and just play," said Hauck. "We have to play our game and not get trapped into their's, into the small ball. We just have to play and have fun."