With rain in the forecast all day Saturday, Rolla's first District game was moved up a day to Friday. They made the short trip down to Waynesville to face off against the tournament's host school. After a slow start, the Bulldog bats got hot late, as they took down their Ozark Conference rival 4-1.
It took a few innings to get on the board, as pitchers dominated the first three innings of play. Collin Woods got the start for Rolla after pitching two innings on Tuesday. With the game moved up a day, Rolla head coach Kenny Hohe was concerned about how deep Woods would be able to go. After the first inning, those concerns went away.
"I wasn't sure if Collin was going to be able to pitch as deep as he did. We knew he was going to be throwing on short rest, but we thought he was going to be throwing on three full days of rest," said coach Hohe. "It ended up being just two days, so we were a little apprehensive about that, but after the first inning, I thought it was going to be a good day."
Woods was dealing all afternoon long. He pitched into the seventh inning and allowed just three hits, while walking a pair on the day. Waynesville would end up getting an unearned run across in the seventh, but Woods pitched extremely well all afternoon.
That excellent pitching performance let the Rolla offense settle in and they were finally able to break through in the fourth. Blayne Yarger opened the fourth inning with a leadoff walk and swiped second. Ethan Skyles stepped up later in the inning and blooped a single over short and that was all Yarger needed. He used his wheels to score on the play and put Rolla up 1-0. Yarger's bat stayed hot an inning later. After an infield single by his brother Brady and a sac bunt, Cole Daniels added an infield single to put runners on the corners. Woods then was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Blayne took it from there. The Rolla senior smacked a single to right, bringing two runs home. A passed ball brought another run home and the Bulldogs were able to extend their lead to 4-1.
Woods took it from there and nearly got the complete game. After a Tiger batter reached on an error in the seventh, a steal put the runner in scoring position. The run came across the score on an two out single, but Blayne Yarger nearly got the out at home to finish off the game. The runner snuck in before the tag to bring the score to 4-1, but Yarger was able to come in and get the final out on the mound to close out the win.
Woods got all but one of the outs in the win, allowing just three hits along the way. Offensively, Blayne Yarger led the Bulldogs by going 1-2 with two RBI, a run scored and a walk. Skyles added an RBI single. Rolla collected just five hits on the day, two of which came from Brady Yarger. The clutch hits seemed even more special on Friday night, because they came after a week where Rolla struggled to take advantage of opportunities to score.
"While we didn't tally a ton of base hits and we didn't have nearly as many base runners we've had the last few games, what was nice was just being able to get two big hits with runners on and put some runs on the board," said coach Hohe. "We were able to let ourselves breathe a little bit. Collin threw well, but if you look back at the Glendale game on Wednesday, Treyton (Ruth) and Ethan pitched well. When you don't have run support, it makes it hard to pitch inning after inning. Getting that lead in the fourth really helped Collin pitch as long as he was able to."
After taking down a conference rival to advance to the second round, Rolla will run into another Ozark Conference foe in the District Semifinals. The Bulldogs will face Lebanon, who edged Rolla 3-2 earlier this season. Rolla will play Lebanon at Waynesville on Monday at 6:15. Coach Hohe hopes his Bulldogs can hit the ground running right out of the bat and set the tone against the Yellowjackets.
"We certainly wanna show up on Monday and take the lead early. For no other reason than we play better when we're ahead," said Hohe. "Not that we can't win by coming from behind and it doesn't mean if they get the first run we lose, but as a team we just play a little bit more loose and we have a little bit more comfort if we have the lead. We're going to try to get out there and get that lead early."