The Rolla baseball team faced off against Camdenton for the Class 5 District 9 Championship on Tuesday, May 14. The Bulldogs couldn't overcome control issues in an 8-6 loss.
Both teams had issues on the mound on Tuesday night and Rolla was the first team to take advantage. The Bulldogs scored three runs in the first inning after drawing five walks and getting hit in the inning. Two of the three runs came in on bases loaded walks, while Brady Yarger got plunked with the bases loaded to bring in the third run.
Camdenton came back in the second with a pair of their own runs. A single from Andrew DiBello and a double from Preston Crabtree set up Garrett Stamper to drive in a pair with a one-out single. Rolla starter Drew Johnson was able to stop the bleeding there, as the Bulldogs maintained a 3-2 lead.
Rolla added to their lead in the bottom of the inning thanks to the bat of Blayne Yarger. The senior only had one at bat on the day, as Camdenton elected to walk the Bulldog centerfielder on all of his other trips to the dish. He made them pay for pitching to him in the second, as he mashed a solo shot to right field to push the Rolla lead to 4-2.
Ethan Skyles came in for Rolla to start the third and ran into some trouble early. After a groundout to open the inning, he loaded the bases by walking a pair of batters and allowing one to reach on a bunt single. Camdenton's first run of the inning came in on a hit batter, before two more scored on a fielder's choice at second. Another run came in on an RBI single by Stamper, as Camdenton took a 6-4 lead that they would not surrender.
The Lakers then built on that lead in the fourth. Skyles was removed after walking Ethan Folks to lead off the inning. Parker Yoakum came in to pitch and got a strikeout, but Folks was able to work his way to third on a steal and a wild pitch. Two walks and an out were followed by a hit batter, bringing in Camdenton's second run on a bean ball in the game. Drake Miller then came around to score on a passed ball, as Camdenton pushed their lead out to 8-4.
The Bulldogs needed a spark offensively and they were able to get rolling a bit in the bottom of the fourth thanks to some smart base-running. After a pair of outs to open the inning, Cole Daniels walked and swiped second. A walk by Collin Woods was followed by another intentional walk to Blayne Yarger. Yarger tried to play some mind games at first and Folk attempted to pick him off with the bases loaded. The throw went wild and two runs came across to score to cut the gap to 8-6. After a pair of hit batters, Rolla had a prime chance to add to their lead, but Skyles was called out on strikes on a low fast ball and the Bulldogs stalled out at two runs in the inning.
While the bats were starting to pick up, the Bulldog pitchers started to settle in. Eric Henson allowed the final run of the fourth inning on a wild pitch, but pitched shutout baseball after that until the sixth. That's when Colby Shivers came in and pitched two shutout innings of his own to give Rolla a chance.
Rolla had their opportunities to complete the comeback in both the sixth and the seventh, as two Bulldogs reached base in each inning, but they couldn't quite get the big hit they needed to drive in the final run and Camdenton was crowned the District Champions with an 8-6 win over Rolla.
"We struggled to find the zone and we struggled to throw strikes and offensively, we struggled to get base hits. We had base-runners, we just couldn't get that big timely hit," said head coach Kenny Hohe after the game. "Focusing on this game, as poorly as we played in some facets of the game, here we are in the bottom of the seventh with the winning run at the plate. Credit to those guys for fighting all game, not playing our best ball and still having a shot. I credit them and can't be prouder of the team."
Rolla had three players named All-District after their three game run. Yoakum, Yarger and Treyton Ruth each earned recognition for the roles they played in helping the Bulldogs get to their second straight District Title game.
While the loss was frustrating, Rolla has a lot of talent coming back and coach Hohe hopes his team learns from this experience.
"We didn't get the job done today, but we're going to learn from this, we're going to grow from this, we're going to become a better program for it," said Hohe. "Next year we'll be better equipped for seasons like this."
While the last loss always hurts, it can't be overlooked how far these Bulldogs have come this season. Rolla had just four seniors on the roster and only two of those seniors were regular starters for the Bulldogs prior to this season. With a huge lineup of new faces after a big graduating class, no one knew what to expect from this team. They ended up growing as the season went on and earned a spot in a District Championship game for the second straight season, despite the roster turnover.
"Tonight we are disappointed and we're upset. We thought we had a good shot of winning this District and I think if we play them 10 times, I like our odds more times than not. With all that, I can't be prouder of where we came," said coach Hohe. "To start this season 0-3, 2-6, struggling to score, struggling to make plays in the field and get to where we we're one base hit away from winning that District. Can't be more proud of those guys. When we sit back in a little bit, we'll be pretty impressed with where we are from where we were."
Rolla made it this far due to great senior leadership. Treyton Ruth was an anchor for the Bulldog pitching staff, grinding through the season despite a broken finger on his glove hand. Yarger was a monster at the plate, in the field and on the mound for Rolla all season long and set the tone for the Bulldogs offensively, which was proved by the fact that Camdenton elected to walk him almost all night long. Cole Daniels was steady out of the leadoff spot and consistently got on base and scored runs this season. Skyles came into the season with the least varsity experience for the seniors, but provided a solid bat in the Bulldog lineup. As coach Hohe's first group of seniors, he appreciated all they brought to the team this season.
"We're graduating four seniors that are huge for our program," said the Rolla head coach. "Blayne was tremendous, he was our offensive anchor, and Treyton was our pitching staff anchor, but what Ethan Skyles did this year and filling so many roles and lengthening our lineup. You've got Cole leading off all season long, just seeing pitch after pitch and giving the rest of the guys a chance to see what their pitchers had. Those guys are special to me, they'll always be special to me and I'm just upset that this is the last game for those guys."