The Rolla baseball team placed in the Red and Blue Tournament over the weekend, but weather forced a schedule shift for the tournament.
With the oncoming rain, the schedule was shifted on Friday for the Bulldogs to play a doubleheader on Friday, rather than play one game Friday and a pair on Saturday. All games for Saturday were cancelled. After a weather delay pushed back the start time of the first game, another weather delay came in after the fourth. Despite the conditions, Rolla was able to get in games against Belton and Smith-Cotton, a future District team. The Bulldogs were able to get started early against Belton in a 6-3 win, before a come from behind 4-3 win over Smith Cotton.
Rolla struck early in their matchup with Belton, as three runs came across to score in the bottom of the first. Belton was able to get the game within a run in the third, but Rolla pushed another run across in the bottom of the inning to push their lead back out to 4-2. Another Belton run in the fifth made things interesting, but the Bulldogs closed the door with two runs in the sixth to finish off a 6-3 win.
The weather made things interesting all game long, as Rolla was able to pull out the win despite committing four errors. It also forced the Bulldogs' hand on the mound. Collin Woods had the start for Rolla and pitched four solid innings, but did not return to the mound after the extended delay. He allowed two unearned runs on just three hits and a walk, while striking out four batters. Colby Shivers entered the game after the delay, allowing one unearned run in two innings of work. He allowed just one hit and one walk, while striking out one. Blayne Yarger then finished things off with a shutout inning in the seventh, allowing one hit and striking out two batters for the save.
Yarger was also big at the plate for Rolla, smacking his first home run of the season and scoring twice in the victory. Cole Daniels added a pair of hits and two RBI. Drew Johnson had two hits and drove in a run, while Treyton Ruth had a hit, an RBI and a run scored. Shivers went 2-2 with a run scored and Brady Yarger added a hit, a walk and a run scored.
"They key for us was that we wanted to score first," said head coach Kenny Hohe on the win over Belton. "We wanted to get out and get a lead. It's easier to pitch with a lead, you've got more cushion, you can throw more strikes. The second thing was that we wanted to stay in the game from the first inning to the end.
"We just stayed consistent offensively," continued Hohe. "I think we had a base runner every inning and we kept the pressure on. We didn't always capitalize, but there were runners on and there was pressure on for them to throw good pitches."
Things didn't go quite as easily for Rolla against Smith Cotton. Rolla struck first with runs in the second and third, but Smith Cotton came to life with three runs in the fourth. The Bulldogs needed to step up at the plate for the come from behind win and they did just that in the fifth.
Blayne Yarger opened the fifth win an infield single, before Parker Yoakum was hit by a pitch. Ruth earned a walk in the next at bat to load the bases with no outs. Drew Johnson flied out to right, which brought Yarger in to score, but Yoakum made the heads up play to advance to third, as well. That brought Ethan Skyles to the plate, who went to drop down a bunt. Yoakum was able to give a great fake-out at third, pretending to go home. That bluff made Smith-Cotton hesitate and Skyles was able to make it to first and load the bases. Parker then came across to score on a wild pitch to give Rolla a 4-3 lead that they would not surrender.
The second game of this doubleheader showed a lot of guts for the Bulldogs, as they were originally only scheduled to play one game on Friday. Ruth would've pitched this game had the game been Saturday, but he wasn't available to pitch Friday night. Left to scramble for a pitcher, coach Hohe turned to Hunter Hoss. The sophomore wasn't perfect on the day, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks before getting pulled in the fourth, but he provided a steady arm to keep Rolla in the game. Coach Hohe was impressed with his performance, despite some struggles in the fourth.
"It kind of became a situation where I looked around and tabbed Hunter Hoss to get the start. He was scoreless after three innings," said the Rolla head coach. "He gave up back to back doubles in the fourth to start the inning, so we pulled him after three, but for a sophomore with very little varsity experience to get a start against not just any opponent, but a District opponent and go out and throw three goose eggs up to start the game. That gave us all the confidence in the world that we can play with those guys."
Skyles then finished the game with an electric performance out of the bullpen. He allowed one unearned run on one hit and struck out four batters in four innings of work, earning the win in the process.
"(Skyles) gave up one of his own, so we gave up three there in the fourth, but then he shut them out for the fifth, sixth and seventh. He goes out in the seventh and he strikes out the side," said coach Hohe. "He was getting stronger as that game was wearing on."
Offensively, Blayne Yarger had another strong game with two hits and a run scored. Yoakum scored twice, including the game-winning run. He had a hit, walked and was hit by a pitch. Ruth added a hit, a run scored and two walks.
The two games that Rolla played on Friday showed some important mental fortitude for a young team. They were originally scheduled to start the day at 2:00. They didn't play until 5:00. Then they had to fight through weather delay and adversity on the field, but they managed to come away with two wins. Coach Hohe was proud of what his team was able to accomplish with those two wins.
"It was a very long day. We showed up in Springfield at 12:30 for a 2:00 game and we didn't play until 5:00," said the Rolla head coach. "We were in an hour rain delay for the game before us, before an hour rain delay in our first game. To keep fighting through all that dead time and still play very competent, very good, very competitive baseball, that's just a testament to the guys and their ability to focus when they need to."
The Bulldogs are slated to return to Ozark Conference play on Tuesday, April 2 when they host Kickapoo, but the rain over the weekend may force that game to be rescheduled. Rolla will then travel to West Plains on Thursday, before taking part in the Potosi Tournament over the weekend.