The Rolla baseball team had an adventure of a game when they faced off against Lebanon in the District Semifinals on Monday, May 13. After a slow start, a few clutch base hits helped the Bulldogs pull out an 8-6 win in extras.
Rolla took a few innings to get settled into the game offensively and Lebanon took advantage. The Yellowjackets struck first with an RBI single in the first. They then added two more in the third. After a single and a hit batter, both the Yellowjackets advanced on a passed ball, a floater between third base and left field was enough to bring both runners home, as the Bulldogs trailed 3-0. Lebanon then added to that lead in the fourth with another run, which scored on a bunt.
With their backs against the wall, the Bulldog bats needed to get going. In stepped Blayne Yarger. After an infield single by Cole Daniels and a double by Collin Woods, Yarger roped a ball out to right. The ball hit the top of the wall, but didn't quite make it over. Regardless, Yarger was on third with no outs and eventually came in on a sac fly by Drew Johnson, who was just kick starting a clutch game at the plate.
"I thought one of the keys to that game was scoring those three runs there in the top of the fifth," said Rolla head coach Kenny Hohe. "We struggled to get runners on base and we certainly struggled to do anything with them once we did. Blayne comes up and hits that ball right off the top of the fence, scores two and then scores on the sac fly. That breathed a little life into our offense."
With the deficit cut to one, Rolla had a lot of momentum, but that almost seemed to evaporate in the sixth, as Drew McBride launched a ball to deep center for Lebanon. Yarger nearly made a great play to rob a home run, but couldn't quite reel it in and Lebanon extended their lead to 5-3.
After the home run, Rolla needed to respond in the top of the seventh and they did just that. Woods opened the inning by getting hit by a pitch. Yarger followed with a double. Parker Yoakum then hit a grounder and Woods was able to beat the throw home to cut the gap to one. Johnson then came up clutch again, stroking an RBI single to tie the game at five. That's when Lebanon turned to their ace, Tyler Paul, who balked to put Yoakum and Johnson and second and third. Parker wasn't able to score on a fly ball by Ethan Skyles, but eventually came home on a passed ball, giving Rolla their first lead of the game.
The Bulldogs turned to Yarger to close out the game on the mound, but he ran into some problems early. He opened the inning by allowing a single and a walk, before both of the runners advanced on back to back wild pitches. Yarger was able to get a strikeout for his first out of the inning, but a run came home to score on a sac fly. The second runner was caught on the base paths to end the inning, but Rolla and Lebanon would need extra innings to decide a winner.
Ethan Stephenson led off the inning by reaching on an error and made it all the way to second on the play. Back to back strikeouts out Rolla in a bind, then Paul elected to intentionally walk Yarger to put runners on first and second. Yoakum was then hit by a pitch, setting Johnson up to be the hero yet again. He smacked a double into the left-center gap to bring home two runs to give Rolla their final lead of the game.
"I was just trying to wait for a good pitch," said Johnson. "I was just trying to put the barrel on it and put it play somewhere hard, man. It paid off."
Yarger stayed in the game to pitch the bottom of the eighth and made quick work of the Yellowjackets. The Rolla senior walked a batter, but struck out the side to get the win.
"It's the best feeling," said Johnson after the game. "I'm kind of at a loss for words. Especially coming back and avenging ourselves. They beat us by one run earlier in the season and this was payback. Onto the next."
Johnson ended the game with two hits and four RBI, all of which came in clutch moments at the plate. Coach Hohe loved seeing the Rolla junior stepped up when he needed to.
"This is a kid that started the season injured and with him, he's such a big part of our lineup, he's been a big part of our success," said Hohe on Johnson. "I couldn't be more proud of him and his ability to work and do the things needed to improve our team."
Treyton Ruth started the game for Rolla, earning a no decision along the way. He allowed five runs, but only three of them were earned. He surrendered just four hits, walked two batter and struck out six in six innings of work. Yarger then finishing things off with one earned run on one hit and two walks, while striking out four.
"Treyton has been our anchor for our pitching staff all season," said coach Hohe of his ace. "He's always drawn the toughest at bats and yesterday was no different. That is not an easy club to pitch to, especially when you get to a third time through that lineup. Their eighth place hitter drove a ball out to dead center, that lineup has hitters all throughout. To give up three earned runs through six innings, you can't ask for a whole lot more out of your pitcher."
Offensively, Yarger added two RBI on two hits and a walk, while scoring three runs. Yoakum added an RBI and a run scored. Woods scored twice and had one hit, while Colby Shivers, Brady Yarger and Stephenson each added base knocks in the win.
On the top of the bracket, Camdenton pulled out a huge upset by taking down Jefferson City 6-5. The Lakers led 6-0 going into the seventh, but managed to hold on thanks to a game-ended double play with the game-tying run on base. Rolla and Camdenton will face off for the District Championship at 5:30 on Tuesday.