Waynesville fails to take advantages of late opportunities to tie or win the game

WAYNESVILLE — When the opportunities were there in the final half-inning of baseball, the Waynesville Tigers (4-9, 1-2 in Ozark Conference) didn't take advantage of them in a 5-3 loss to Rolla (9-5, 1-2 in Conference).

With nobody out in the bottom of the seventh, the bases loaded, down 5-2, Waynesville drove in just one of the runs on a groundout to first.

Rolla pitcher Seth Stevens then struck out the next batter and got the last one to pop the ball up lazily into shallow right-centerfield.

After senior Shane Jewett drove in the first run in the seventh, Waynesville coach Scott Turner said despite Jewett being tagged en route to first base it was a perfect situation for the remaining batters.

“It's what we want with one out and at the top of the lineup,” Turner said. “We just didn't get the timely hits. We had two chances to get the hit that we needed, but we didn't come through between our two top-of-the-lineup hitters.”

Which was sort of a surprise for Turner after they did so earlier in the game.

A double and a single opened the game for the Bulldogs 1-0, but sophomore Trey Simpson adjusted and stranded Rolla runners at first and third.

The Bulldogs gave Simpson fits again in the second after two singles opened the frame. Simpson though, straightened up again and struck out the next two batters and got the final Rolla batter to pop up for the final out.

Stevens and Simpson then continued their pitcher's duel into the top of the fourth.

That's when junior Andy Satulla sliced a ball down the left field line for a two-run double to give his team a more comfortable, 3-0 lead.

Senior Joseph Murray gave his team some hope in the bottom of the fourth when he had a RBI triple to right as the ball bounced between the outfielder's legs. Senior Jaylen Bragg then bunted Murray home to cut the lead to one.

It wasn't the prettiest bunt, but an indecisive Rolla fielder let the runner score, further slimming their lead to 3-2.

Despite his fielders letting him down, Stevens kept plugging along, unfazed, and got out of the inning without any more trouble. The next two innings were completely quiet on both sides as the pitchers continued putting on a show.

Rolla coach Karl Odenwald said that's how it is each time Stevens takes the mound.

“We know we're going to get a good outing out of [Stevens],” Odenwald said. “He's going to keep us in ball games.

“We had a couple of defensive miscues and they're right back in it at 3-2, but it doesn't effect him. He goes out there and he's stable and calm.”

Throughout the whole game Waynesville batters had troubles getting a good look at Stevens' curveball which was much, much slower than his fastball and had good movement on it.

“Seth is not a flashy pitcher,” Odenwald said. “He throws fastball, curveball and mix in a changeup every once in awhile. But he'll throw any pitch in any count and that keeps hitters off-balance.

“When you can throw a curveball in any count for a strike that makes you tougher to hit.”

Turner said the change in speed was the hardest thing for his batters to deal with.

Stevens said he actually didn't learn the pitch from his Rolla coaches, but a previous coach of his at another school. That doesn't make any difference though, as the pitch is rather nasty and may look familiar to Cardinals fans.

“[My coach] told me it was [Cardinals pitcher Adam] Wainwright's curveball,” Stevens said. “So I'm sure it's a good pitch.”

Even though he has a pitch that has been compared to such a talented Major League Baseball player, Stevens said the game in Waynesville was nerve-racking since it was so close and Simpson was pitching well too.

“You feel like you have to make all your pitches,” Stevens said. “Your offense has to be there too. When you start getting runs it boosts your intensity and morale.”

In the top of the seventh, with the score at 3-2, senior Bryan Peach hit a double for Rolla. Then junior Collin Nash popped up into right field. A Tigers' player dropped the ball and Peach scored from third to make it a 4-2 game.

Junior Cameron Clayton then singled to center to drive in another run to make it 5-2.

Turner was disappointed for Simpson, who pitched a great game.

“You can't ask for someone to come out there and do a better job,” Turner said. “He deserved a win and we let him down.”

Trey went 6 1-3 innings before handing the ball over to his brother, Trent, giving up nine hits, five runs (three earned) while striking out seven.

Waynesville will play Lebanon next, on Tuesday, April 22.