The Rolla baseball team wrapped up their regular season with a pair of Ozark Conference games on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 7-8. The Bulldogs faced off against Hillcrest on the road Tuesday, falling 8-6, before a rainy 1-0 loss to Glendale on Wednesday for Senior Night.
The Bulldogs were doomed by one bad inning on Tuesday, as they maintained a 1-0 lead for the first three innings. The wheels fell off in the fourth, as six runs came across in the inning on the back of a few errors. Drew Johnson started the game with three shutout innings, but he allowed a pair of hits to open the fourth, so Collin Woods came in to relieve him. Those two runners both came in to score, along with four more to give Hillcrest a 6-1 lead.
But Rolla came charging back. They started with three runs in the top of the fifth, before tying the game with two runs in the top of the sixth. Hillcrest instantly responded, though, as they pushed across two more run to send Rolla home with an 8-6 loss.
The Bulldog pitchers combined to allow eight runs, but only one was earned in the loss. Johnson allowed two unearned runs on two hits and a walk in three innings of work. Woods allowed six runs, though only one was earned, on six hits. Eric Henson didn't allow a hit in one inning of work.
Offensively, Johnson also drove in a pair of runs on a hit and a walk, scoring once. Blayne Yarger and Parker Yoakum also each drove in a run on a hit and a walk. Colby Shivers and Brady Yarger also each drove in a run on a base hit.
The game came down to taking advantage of opportunities according to head coach Kenny Hohe. Rolla had chances to score all game long that they failed to take advantage of and Hillcrest capitalized when given opportunities to score.
"They did what they were supposed to, when we gave them opportunities, they took advantage," said coach Hohe. "We had runners on every inning. We could've broken that game open so many times. Top of the inning we had the bases loaded and nobody out and we only scored one run. I believe we stranded two runners on in two more innings and maybe one runner on every other inning. We had our opportunities."
That trend continued on Wednesday, as Rolla had chances to put runs on the board, but they just couldn't get a run across. Glendale put pressure on the Bulldogs right out of the gate. The Falcons led off the game with a walk and a weak grounder for a single. A groundout put runners on second and third. Rolla starter Treyton Ruth locked in after that, only allowing one run on a groundout in the inning. He closed out the inning with a strikeout, but that one blemish would prove costly.
The Bulldogs instantly put themselves in position to at least tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Cole Daniels opened the inning with a walk. After an out, Blayne Yarger drew a walk of his own. With two runners on and no one out, Rolla got two straight out and stranded their first chance to get on the board.
After a strong second inning, Ruth had to work out a jam in the third. After a leadoff single, Ruth attempted to pick of the runner, but the throw went wild and Glendale had a runner on second with no outs. Ruth forced back to back groundouts, before a pop out, as Glendale stranded a runner at third.
Rolla's best chance to score came in the bottom of the inning. Daniels led things off with a single, before an out. Another single by Blayne Yarger put two runners on before another out. Those runners were then both moved into scoring position on a passed ball with two outs, but another out ended the scoring threat.
The Bulldogs didn't have another strong scoring chance, as the weather continued to get worse throughout the game. They started the seventh inning of the game with Glendale still holding their 1-0 lead and the game was eventually called in the inning due to the large water puddles building up on the field. Glendale scored a run in the inning that didn't count, as the game was called before the end of the inning, giving the Falcons a 1-0 win in six innings.
Ruth took the loss in his final start of the regular season, allowing one run in three and a third innings on two hits and a walk. Ethan Skyles finished the game off, pitching two and two thirds innings, allowing two hits and striking out three.
"Once again Treyton kept us in that ballgame and Ethan came in and did a great job as well," said coach Hohe. "Six innings with one run, if you tell me that before any game we play, I definitely will take that."
Offensively, Rolla managed just three hits, as all three seniors in the field, Daniels, Blayne Yarger and Skyles, had base knocks. At the end of the day, Rolla just couldn't take advantage of their best chances to score and that's a problem coach Hohe and the Bulldogs need to solve as Districts approach.
"It's been different guys at different times. We stranded six or seven guys not just on base, but in scoring position," said the Rolla head coach on the loss to Glendale. "Part of it is, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves maybe, but we've faced good teams and we've faced good pitching. Good pitchers bear down when the situation calls for it and I thought their pitcher did a great job yesterday when we got guys in scoring position."
The loss was a tough one for Rolla, as they wanted to pull out a win on Senior Night. Coach Hohe is so thankful for the leadership those seniors provided in his first season as the Bulldog head coach.
"It would've been nice to win on Senior Night, but those seniors have been leading all year long, they've been doing a good job and all of those seniors played a big part in the game," said coach Hohe. "Cole was on base twice, Blayne was on base twice and made a great running catch in left-center and then of course Treyton and Ethan did a great job on the mound against what ended up being an undefeated conference champion."
The Bulldogs will now have a couple of days off before heading into Districts, where they will face a familiar foe in Waynesville to kick things off on Saturday. Coach Hohe is glad that Rolla has experience against all of the teams in the District, so there shouldn't be any major curveballs from the opposition.
"That's the great thing about our District is that we've played everyone in there," said Hohe. "The guys know what to expect, they've seen these guys. If you're not ready to go on Saturday then I don't know what will get you motivated."