Waynesville baseball team (4-4, 2-1 OC) hosted Rolla for an Ozark Conference matchup on Tuesday, April 10. The game started off as a pitchers' dual, but that changed in the sixth inning when Tristen O'Neal gave Rolla the lead for good with a solo shot. He added a two-run homer in the next inning for good measure, leading Rolla to a 5-1 win.
Pitching was the name of the game early on, as Rolla and Waynesville both had excellent performances from their starting pitchers. Both teams scored a run early, but both runs scored on balls that never left the infield. Waynesville scored in the bottom of the first after Noah Ochoa reached on an error. A single by Eric Kane put Ochoa in scoring position with two outs and the speedy shortstop scored on an infield single by Devon Stearns. Rolla retaliated in the top of the second thanks to a walk by Davie Pounds and a single by Joel Simmons, both with one out. That put runners on the corners and a groundout by Will Bolyard let Pound come around to score and tie the game at one.
After that it was all pitching. Treyton Ruth got the start for Rolla and pitched five innings of great baseball. He allowed just three hits and walked a batter in those five innings, while just the one unearned run came across to score. He struck out eight batters. Waynesville also got a stellar start from Ethan Brown. Rolla struggled to solve him for the first five innings, only scoring that run in the second.
Rolla was finally able to solve Brown in the sixth when O'Neal stepped up to the dish to lead off the inning. The Bulldogs' big first baseman launched a solo shot over the left field wall that was nearly robbed by Colin Crockett. Crockett wasn't able to keep it in the park, though, and Rolla took a 2-1 lead. Brown was able to get one out before hitting Simmons and walking Bolyard, which led to him getting pulled from the game. He allowed two runs on three hits in 5.1 innings of work with six strikeouts.
Joshua Rumph came in to pitch for Waynesville and he was able to get out of the inning with a double play ball. Jonathan Reese came in to pitch for Rolla in the bottom of the sixth and he struck out the side in order. The Bulldog bats then took the momentum from the sixth inning and got the ball rolling again in the seventh. Their scoring efforts came with two outs when Brett Gonzalez lined a single up the middle to drive in their first run. O'Neal then came up to the plate for the second time in as many innings and he blasted his second home run of the game, this time a two-run shot, to give Rolla a 5-1 lead. Reese closed things out on the mound with three more outs, while allowing a walk and a hit to earn the save and seal Rolla's 5-1 win. Reese struck out five batters in two innings of work.
"We know Rolla's a great team, so coming in, you know you have to play your best and I think our kids did play their best today," said head coach Scott Turner. "If you take away two pitches, that was a close ball game. Our kids did a great job today."
Coach Turner praised Brown for his performance on the mound, as he kept Waynesville in the game the entire time he was on the rubber.
"You couldn't have asked for a better job from Ethan on the mound. That was the best game he's pitched this year and probably the best game I've seen him pitch in his career," said the Waynesville head coach. "He did a great job on the mound."
While Waynesville took their first loss in the conference, coach Turner doesn't think this game will shake his team's confidence.
"This game doesn't take away any confidence from them, they've still got their confidence," said coach Turner. "That's the key in the Ozark Conference, you've gotta have some confidence, then you've gotta go out there and do a job on the mound and behind them on defense. I think we'll be able to do that."
Next up for the Tigers is the Waynesville Varsity Invitational this weekend, which starts with games against Lutheran St. Charles and Neosho on Friday, April 13 and a matchup with Helias on Saturday.