The Rolla baseball team made the trip down to West Plains for a rescheduled Ozark Conference game on Wednesday, April 10. The Bulldogs got a little bit of brotherly love, as Brady and Blayne Yarger each mashed three run homers to carry Rolla to a 9-6 win.
The Bulldogs had some hiccups early on, as Blayne Yarger was set to start the game for the Bulldogs. He wasn't feeling right after pitching the first inning, so he shifted to centerfield and Parker Yoakum was brought in to pitch the second. Yoakum ran into some issues, as he allowed three runs before being pulled. He recorded two outs before Drew Johnson came in to pitch. A fourth run came across before Johnson got out of the inning. That run was also charged to Yoakum.
Trailing 4-0, Rolla needed to find some offense. They started their comeback in the top of the third. Blayne Yarger started by drawing a two-out walk. He advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on a double by Yoakum. The first blast then came in the fourth. Ethan Skyles and Colby Shivers got back to back singles, which set the table for Brady Yarger to launch a three run shot to tie the game at four.
Meanwhile, Rolla was getting solid pitching from Johnson. After getting out of the second, he pitched two shutout innings, before turning the ball over to Collin Woods. Woods kept West Plains off the board in the fifth and sixth and Rolla was able to take their first lead of the game in the seventh.
Rolla had runners on second and third with one out in the top of the seventh with Yoakum at the plate. He made a clever play at the plate and faked a squeeze bunt. That tempted the West Plains pitcher into balking, which brought a run home. Unfortunately, that lead didn't last long, as West Plains tied the game at five in the bottom of the inning. They nearly finished off the win, but they tested Blayne Yarger's arm on a single to center and had a runner thrown out with ease at home to head into extras.
The Bulldogs needed a big hit and that's exactly what they got when Blayne Yarger stepped to the plate with two runners on and two outs. The senior stepped up and with two strikes he absolutely blasted the ball about 400 feet over the massive wall West Plains has in centerfield to put Rolla in front 8-5. Skyles added another RBI single a few batters later to give Rolla a little extra cushion. West Plains was able to push a run across in the bottom of the inning, but Woods was able to limit the damage and get out with a 9-6 win.
The Yarger brothers both came up big in the win. Blayne was 2-4 with three RBI on the home run, two runs scored and a walk, while Brady was 1-3 with his three run home run. Head coach Kenny Hohe was glad the pair of brothers had the chance to shine together.
"It was a pretty special moment for those guys. A lot of their family is from Mountain Grove, which isn't too far away, so they had a lot of people there to watch us," said Hohe. "We talk about (Blayne) being the only guy coming back with experience and how all of the other guys are developing and getting better and learning on the fly, but Blayne is also getting better this season. He had some rough at bats against West Plains too, but he came up in that crucial situation and you just had the feeling he was going to do something with this at bat and he did."
Other offensive standouts include Skyles, who had three hits, drove in a run and scored once. Yoakum had a pair of hits, scored twice and drove in a run, while also walking twice. Shivers and Cole Daniels also added base hits. While the Yargers got the biggest hits, you can't hit three run home runs without production throughout the lineup and that's what the Bulldogs did with 10 hits, while earning nine walks at the plate.
The game didn't go exactly as planned on the mound for Rolla, but they made it work. Yarger allowed one hit and struck out a batter in his one inning of work. Yoakum allowed four earned runs on two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Johnson allowed just three hits and a a walk in 2.1 innings, while Woods allowed two runs, though only one was earned in four innings of work. Woods surrendered two hits and a walk, while striking out five.
Wednesday's game wasn't your typical ballgame, but coach Hohe appreciated how every player in the lineup found a way to step up and contribute in the win.
"That was one of those games too where it was a team win. Everyone in that game did something to contribute to the win," said the Rolla head coach. "Whether it was getting a base hit, driving a run in, draw a walk, making a great play defensively. Everyone up and down the lineup, everyone that played, even our courtesy runners. Everyone that played contributed."
The win gives the Bulldogs two conference wins in a row and it doesn't get any easier next week. The Bulldogs will host Camdenton, another conference rival, but also a District opponent, on Monday. They them host Jeff City, another District foe, on Wednesday. Coach Hohe hopes that the string of conference wins helps build their confidence as they head into a tough week.
"We're getting better incrementally and I told the kids this yesterday, we had some rain outs so we didn't play as many games as we expected, but getting to today, now we can kind of breathe a little bit," said coach Hohe. "We get just a little bit of time off to regroup, focus on some things and some areas we need to improve, because next week doesn't get any easier."