The Rolla baseball team continued a busy week with a trip to Battle on Tuesday, Mar. 26. The Bulldogs got behind early, but made a late comeback in the seventh to force extras. Battle was able to bounce back in extras to win 10-9.
One mistake put Rolla behind the eight ball early, as a two-run inning quickly ballooned out to eight after and error left the door open for Battle and they took advantage. Parker Yoakum didn't make it out of the first, allowing eight runs in two third of an inning. Six of those runs were unearned, as they scored after the two-out error. He walked four and allowed three hits, before being relieved by Luke Seest.
"We should've been out of the inning long before that, we should've given up two," said head coach Kenny Hohe on the rough first inning. "We had a big error and if we make that play, we only give up two. We struggled to throw strikes in the first inning and when we did throw strikes, it seemed like the baseball was finding holes."
Seest was able to get the final out of the inning to stop the bleeding, but Rolla had a big hole to dig out of. They started by scoring two in the second, before tacking on two more in the third. Meanwhile, Seest was dealing. He would go on to pitch a total of three and a third innings, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and a walk. That run came across to score in the fourth. Coach Hohe was thrilled by his performance, as Seest was making his first varsity appearance on the mound.
"Luke came in and he did a tremendous job of just keeping us in the game. He was efficient, he kept the ball down, he gave guys opportunities to make plays," said coach Hohe. "He gave up a run without the ball ever leaving the infield. That was his first varsity action ever on the mound...he just came in and pumped strike after strike.
"We came in and put up two runs in the top of the second, but if he goes back in and gives up two more, then we're not gaining any ground. He just held them at bay," continued the Rolla head coach. "He just did what he was capable of. I think that's the one thing that everyone has to get better at is just playing to our strengths."
After Seest finished off the fourth, Ethan Skyles came in and dealt two shutout frames to give Rolla a chance, but they were running out of innings. Rolla had their opportunities to score throughout the game, but kept leaving runners in scoring position. That changed in the seventh, as they were down to their last inning to make a comeback.
The Bulldogs finally found some clutch performances at the plate in the seventh. Blayne Yarger opened the inning with a double, before a single from Yoakum put runners on the corners. Drew Johnson then brought Yarger home and again put runners on the corners. Another single from Skyles sent Yoakum home for the second run of the inning. Rolla then got back to back outs, which put their backs against the wall with two outs and still in need of three more runs. Hunter Hoss came in to pinch hit and was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. A walk to Cole Daniels brought the score to 9-7, before a single from Collin Woods cut the deficit to one. Yarger then had his second at bat of the inning and was hit by a pitch to drive in the tying run. Yoakum wasn't able to give Rolla the lead, but it kept the game alive for the Bulldogs.
Colby Shivers came in to pitch in the seventh and pitched a scoreless frame to force extras. The Bulldog offense was cold in the eighth and miscues again sank Rolla in the bottom of the frame. A walk, an error and an intentional walk loaded the bases, before another walk by Shivers drove in the final run of the game, sending Rolla home with a 10-9 loss. Shivers didn't allow a hit in one and a third innings of work, walking three, striking out one and allowing one unearned run.
Offensively, Yarger led the Bulldogs, going 4-4 with a hit by pitch, scoring twice and driving in a run. Skyles was 4-5 with a run and an RBI to go along with two hitless frames on the mound. Johnson was 2-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Daniels, Woods, Shivers, Ethan Stephenson and Hoss all added RBI in the game.
"The key for us right now is experience. We didn't have the opportunity to be outside very much before the season started because of the weather, so that first day when we played Rock Bridge and Grain Valley, we weren't ready," said coach Hohe. "But we were much better last week and we're getting better. I think what we need more than anything is we just need to keep playing games. You're talking about a bunch of guys that didn't get a to play a bunch of varsity last year and some guys are doing really well. We just haven't been able to put together a complete game yet."
Coach Hohe and the Bulldogs are getting those games they need for the next couple of weeks. The Bulldogs will play in the Red and Blue Classic this weekend, playing a game in Springfield on Friday to play Lee's Summit North, before a doubleheader on Saturday. They'll play Smith Cotton, a District opponent, at Nixa, before facing Hillcrest in Springfield later in the day. Rolla will follow that with two conference games and a tournament next week.