The Rolla baseball team hosted Kickapoo for an Ozark Conference matchup on Tuesday, April 1. The Bulldogs made a couple of crucial mistakes that they couldn't bounce back from in a 4-2 loss.
Kickapoo was able to break through for the first run of the game in the top of the first when Mason Auer opened the game with a leadoff triple. A ground ball to third led to a bang bang play at first, but Garrett Bauer reached first safely on a high throw. The grounder opened the door for Auer to score, putting the Chiefs out in front 1-0. Rolla starter Treyton Ruth settled in after that. First he picked off Garrett Bauer, who reached on the infield single, before a strikeout and a flyout to end the inning with limited damage.
After allowing a run in the first, Ruth settled in. He followed with three scoreless innings, but ran into some trouble in the fifth. After a strikeout to open the inning, Bauer was able to sneak a ball just inside the foul line in right and leg out a triple. Ruth was able to get a strike out, but Gus Bauer followed up with an RBI double, before an RBI single from Will Bailey. brought the score to 3-0. The Bulldogs should've been out of the inning on the next play, but Jacob Murrell reached on an error, which brought another run home for Kickapoo. Ruth was able to get out of the inning, but Rolla was in the hole 4-0.
To this point in the game, Rolla had just five base runners with two hits and three walks, but the Bulldogs had a prime chance to score in the bottom of the fifth. Brady Yarger opened the inning by reaching base on an infield single. After a lineout, Cole Daniels walked. Collin Woods followed with a strikeout, but a passed ball put runners on second and third with two outs and Rolla's best hitter at the plate. Blayne Yarger got a good piece of a pitch, but was slightly jammed and flew out to centerfield to end the inning.
Drew Johnson came in to pitch in the sixth inning and got caught in a bit of a jam, but managed to hold Kickapoo at bay. After getting the first out of the inning, Kickapoo's Garrett Frey reached on an error and made it to second base on the play. A walk was followed by a double steal, which put runners on second and third with only one out, but Johnson was able to get a strikeout and a flyout to keep the gap at 4-0.
Rolla then got the ball rolling offensively in the bottom of the sixth. Kickapoo's starter, Auer, got the first out of the inning before reaching his pitch count. The Missouri State commit was then relieved by Matt Burris and Rolla took advantage of the pitching change. Ethan Skyles kicked things off by reaching on an error, ebfore Colby Shivers drew a walk. Both runners then advanced on a passed bacll. Skyles then came across to score on a groundout by Hunter Hoss. A walk from Brady Yarger put runners on the corners, before an RBI infield single from Ethan Stephenson, who hit a grounder that ricocheted off of Burris' glove for a base hit. Unfortunately the rally ended there, as Wyatt Sowers came in to courtesy run for the catcher, Stephenson, and was caught in between first and second on a ball in the dirt. He saw the pitch hit the dirt and took off, but Yarger didn't advance, so he had no where to go and was tagged out to end the inning.
After another shutout inning from Johnson, Rolla had once more chance to get the two runs they needed to win the game. With two outs, Blayne Yarger got on base with a single, before Parker Yoakum was hit by a pitch. The Bulldogs needed one more hit, but Skyles couldn't get it, as a strikeout ended the game and Kickapoo took home a 4-2 conference win.
Ruth ended the game with four runs allowed, three of which were earned, on nine hits. He pitched five innings and struck out seven. Johnson pitched two innings, allowing no hits and walking one, striking out one batter in the process.
Offensively, Rolla had five hits as a team, but also reached base on six walks and a hit batter. Hoss and Stephenson each drove in runs and had one hit in the game. Both of the Yarger brothers collected base hits, as did Daniels.
With a young team that hasn't had much practice time outside, the little things can end up being the difference. That's been the case several times this season and a couple of miscues helped sink Rolla on Tuesday. Head coach Kenny Hohe hopes his team can clean up those little things, because he's seeing a lot of positives from his team early in the season.
"We're battling and we're keeping ourselves in games, we're competing and we're giving ourselves chances to win, we've just got to learn how to stop the bleeding," said coach Hohe. "Right there in the fifth we gave up three runs. If we can stop that at one, that's a tie ball game. It's the little things, like the base-running mistakes. We had base runners all night, every inning we had runners on base. We just couldn't get that big base hit to give us a multiple run inning."
Ruth's stat line doesn't show how well he performed on the mound in the loss. Several pitchers would've let the first and fifth innings get out of hand, but the senior showed his experience and kept Rolla in the game.
"Treyton has faced three great opponents in Rock Bridge, Lebanon and now again tonight in Kickapoo. He has no wins to show for it, but he's dealing," said coach Hohe. "He is an ace and he goes out and gives us a chance to win every ball game he's in and hopefully we start putting things together and giving him some wins."
The Bulldogs have a busy week ahead of them if Mother Nature is on their side. Rolla is slated to face West Plains on Thursday for another Ozark Conference game, before playing in the Potosi Tournament on Friday and Saturday. Coach Hohe is glad that his guys will head right back onto the field, because they won't have too much time to dwell on a tough conference loss.
"That's one of the best things about baseball is you've got a game the next day," said the Rolla head coach. "That's all we can do is put this in the memory bank, work on the things we need to work on, improve in those areas and get back at it and give ourselves a chance to beat West Plains on Thursday."