By Amanda Perkins
The West Plains Zizzers battled back in the seventh inning after Rolla attempted to run away with the game Thursday night, but the Bulldogs capitalized on their early lead and still took home a 12-6 victory.
“That’s our first conference win, so we’re excited about that,” said Bulldog head coach Marty Hauck. “We had some big, timely hits when they seemed to make a mistake and that was kind of the key for us.”
The Bulldogs came out of the gates swinging. Driven in by Tristen O’Neal, Brett Gonzalez scored on a lead-off single to put Rolla first on the board. West Plains responded with back-to-back singles by Camdon Murphy and Austin Wood to tie it up, 1-1.
Rolla put up a crooked number in the second with three runs on a pair of hits and a Zizzer error. The host team scored but left runners on base, failing to put up multiple runs on the board.
The fourth brought pairs of hits and walks, resulting in four Rolla runs. An error further harmed the Zizzers as two runners were pushed across. The Bulldogs now led 8-2.
Errors continued to plague West Plains, and Rolla took advantage, adding three more runs. Onlookers began to reference the mercy rule, which would take effect with just one more Rolla score. Instead, the Zizzers rallied in the final frame, knocking in four to the visitors’ one. Unfortunately for them, the late effort could not save their early deficit.
“Our kids battled,” said Zizzer head coach Zeb Wallace. “ They didn’t quit, you could see that in the seventh inning. It was a game we never felt we were out of, but we waited too long to get back into.”
Both coaches credited pitcher Jeremiah Ruth’s effort.
“I thought he did an outstanding job on the mound for us,” said Coach Hauck.
Coach Wallace praised Ruth’s efficiency. “That’s a prime example of what happens when your pitcher throws strikes and the defense works well behind him,” he said.
Although he recorded just three strikeouts to West Plains’ 12, Ruth was able to trick his opponents.
“He was getting the guys to chase it a little bit,” said Wallace. “You could look up there in the seventh inning and their pitcher was still in the seventies.”
Coach Hauck said Trey Sinnott was also clutch for his team, capitalizing on big hits at the plate, and Zeke Arthur called a good game from behind the plate.
“Today our defense didn’t really show up,” said Coach Wallace. “Andrew (Wheeler) didn’t have his best stuff on the mound, but Andrew on an off day is still pretty good. He was giving us chances to make plays. Offensively, we lacked the discipline we usually have, things like that.”
“We expected some of these growing pains after graduating seven seniors,” he added, “but we are a lot better than what showed up today and our boys understand that and know that can’t happen.”
Rolla moves to 7-1 on the season and West Plains is now 4-4. Each team will face Ozark Conference foes next, with the Zizzers taking on Camdenton and the Bulldogs, Lebanon.