The Rolla baseball team made the trip down to St. Clair for their third game of the season on Monday, Mar. 18. The Bulldogs grabbed an early lead, but couldn't quite hold on in a 3-2 loss in the Four Rivers Tournament. Rolla bounced back on Tuesday with a matchup against Owensville, beating the Dutchmen 7-3 for their first win of the season.
The Bulldogs struck first with a lead-off home run in the second inning Ethan Skyles. Unfortunately, Rolla couldn't add to that early lead despite loading the bases in the first and having several other early scoring chances. St. Clair tied the game in the fourth. After a pair of walks and an infield single loaded the bases, a dribbler off of home plate brought in a run to lock the game at one. Rolla bounced back in the top of the fifth when Collin Woods drove in Cole Daniels with an RBI double, but St. Clair was able to put the game away in the bottom of the frame. St. Clair was able to get a runner on third with two outs, before back to back doubles gave them a 3-2 lead that they would never surrender.
Woods handled the starting duties for Rolla and pitched a solid game. He allowed all three runs in five innings, striking out seven batters along the way. Hunter Hoss pitched an inning of relief, allowing just one hit and striking out one. Despite taking the loss, head coach Kenny Hohe liked what he saw out of Woods on the mound in his first varsity start.
"He threw strikes and he kept us in the game," said Hohe on Woods' performance. "He battled every inning, which was good to see."
One of the most important things for coach Hohe was a much stronger defensive performance. Despite shuffling people around to different positions, Rolla played error-free baseball. After committing a total of 10 errors in two games on Saturday, that was an important turn around.
"Most importantly, we didn't commit any errors. After Saturday with all the errors we made, we came back and played a clean game," said coach Hohe. "We had some guys that played kind of out of position defensively. Blayne Yarger played first, Ethan Skyles played left. Blayne is an outfielder, Ethan is an infielder, but just based off the situation yesterday and right now we're in tournaments in the varsity and JV level, so we've kind of got a short bench right now. I was happy with the way we played defensively."
Offensively, Rolla had their chances. As a team, the Bulldogs had six hits and three walks. Daniels had two hits, a walk and a run scored. Woods added a pair of hits, and an RBI. Skyles had a home run and Hunter Hoss added a base knock. Coach Hohe just needs to see his team take better advantage of scoring situations.
"We had opportunities. We had the bases loaded in the first and were unable to score. We had a runner on second in the fifth with one out and the heart of the lineup coming up, we didn't score. We had a leadoff runner on in the seventh and were unable score. We also had a runner thrown out at the plate in the fourth," said the Rolla head coach. "We just need to do a better job of capitalizing when our opportunities arise."
The Bulldogs did a much better job of capitalizing on those opportunities when they hosted Owensville for their home opener on Tuesday. Rolla came out and put up two runs in the first inning thanks to a sacrifice fly from Treyton Ruth and an RBI single by Skyles. Owensville scored runs of their own in the first and second inning, but Rolla took the lead for good in the third when Yarger scored on an error to put the Bulldogs out in front 3-2. Rolla then added to that lead the following inning when Yarger roped two-run triple to push the lead to 5-2.
Owensville scored their only other run in the top of the fifth, when a run came across on an error attempting to turn a double play. The Bulldog bats stayed hot in the bottom of the frame, putting the game away with two more runs. Ethan Stephenson got the ball rolling with and RBI single to drive home Colby Shivers. He then worked his way around to third, eventually scoring on an infield single by Cole Daniels. That gave Rolla their final runs in their 7-3 victory.
Rolla got strong pitching all night long, first from Parker Yoakum, before Hoss came in for the two inning save. Yoakum pitched five innings, allowing three hits, while walking five and hitting two. He allowed three runs, though two were unearned, and struck out two batters. Hoss allowed one hit and a walk in two innings of work.
Offensively, Yarger was electric, going 4-4 with two triples and two RBI. Daniels added three hits, scoring twice and driving in a run. Skyles and Ruth each drove in runs. Stephenson went 1-2 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored in the win.
"The key to the game I think was two things. One it was Parker Yoakum on the mound throwing strikes, he gave up two there in the first and then only gave up one over the next four innings," said coach Hohe. "The other thing was we had a little bit of timely hitting. We struggled to do that earlier on, but today it was all through the lineup. When you're solid one through nine, it's one of the things you want to do."
It was particularly important for this group to see they can win games without their more experienced pitchers on the mound. Coach Hohe liked seeing other pitchers stepping up this week.
"It's very important. I thought Collin Woods threw really well yesterday and I thought Parker followed him up today," said the Rolla head coach. "If we get starting pitching like that, with some of the bullpen arms we have like a Hoss and like a Wyatt Sowers, we're going to be pretty solid."
After some early season bumps in the road, coach Hohe was glad to get the first win out of the way and hopes his team will build on it.
"I think it's a big relief," said Hohe. "We went into Saturday and we had a shot to beat Rock Bridge and that fell apart. We had a shot to win yesterday and that fell apart. I think the guys can finally relax and just play baseball."
Rolla will play the final day of the Four Rivers Tournament on Saturday, but they still do no know who their opponent will be.