The Rolla baseball team made the trip to Parkview for an Ozark Conference matchup on Thursday, May 2. Pitching was the name of the game, and the conference rivals both failed to score in the first seven innings. Rolla was able to get a late offensive spark to come away with a 2-0 win in extras.
There wasn't much offense to speak of until extra innings thanks to great pitching. Rolla was led by Collin Woods, who pitched beautifully for six innings. He allowed just six hits and a walk during that span, striking out six batters. In his final inning of work he needed a little help from his defense to keep that shutout alive and he got just that.
With two outs in the sixth, Parkview had a runner on first. A deep fly ball threatened to bring that run home, but Blayne Yarger made a perfect throw into the infield. His brother Brady was at the receiving end and threw a strike home to get the runner at the plate, ending the inning with the shutout in tact.
Rolla ran into a similar situation in the seventh. Blayne Yarger was now on the mound and Parkview again had a two-out runner on first. A passed ball put the runner on second and that run nearly came home on a single to left. Cole Daniels got to be the hero in the seventh, forcing extras by gunning out a second runner at home. That opened the door for some heroics in extras.
Woods was able to lead off the eighth with a walk, before advancing to second on a wild pitch. That brought Yarger to the plate with a chance to come up clutch. He did just that, roping a double to give Rolla a 1-0 lead. After a pair of outs, Ethan Skyles was able to bring Yarger home with a single ro provide an insurance run. Yarger then closed out the game on the mound to give Rolla the 2-0 win.
Yarger ended up pitching two innings of relief for Rolla, striking out a pair, while allowing a hit and three walks. He also went 1-3 at the dish with an RBI, a run scored and a walk. Rolla had seven hits in the win, two of which came from Ethan Stephenson.
Woods was a huge performer for Rolla in the win, giving the Bulldogs six excellent innings on the mound before scoring the game-winning run in extras. Head coach Kenny Hohe loved what he saw out of his starting pitcher.
"Just the ability to throw strikes and keep the other team off balance," said Hohe on Woods' performance on the mound. "He gave us an opportunity. We did not hit early and he just kept going out there and throwing up goose eggs."
While the pitching was crucial, the defense is one of the things that carried Rolla in the win, as two plays at the plate helped keep the shutout alive. The Bulldogs had their fair share of defensive struggles early in the season, but they've come a long way since the error-filled games to open the year.
"Our defense has really improved. It's come a long way since where we were the first couple of games in late March when we just didn't have a chance to get outside," said coach Hohe. "Let's be honest, it's not like we've been able to get outside every day lately, the weather has been bad again, but it's just the ability to show up and compete. Even though we struggled at the plate, we won two of the other three facets of the game."
Rolla will have a bust week next week as they wrap up the regular season. They'll open the week with four straight games, as they weren't able to play Friday due to weather. The Senior Night game with Glendale has now been moved to Wednesday, which will come after back to back road games at Helias and at Hillcrest. The Bulldogs well then end their season agains their neighboring rival, St. James, on Thursday. Rolla will hit the field for Districts soon after that, as they open against the tournament's host, Waynesville, on Saturday.
"We just need to get better each and every day and every time to play, they're all important," said coach Hohe. "They're conference games, they're Helias who is a state ranked Class 4 school, they're St. James who is a big rival and our next door neighbors. Every game is important and we just want to be playing our best ball when we get to Districts next week."