By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Ozark, MO — The Ozark run-manufacturing line was on full display Tuesday afternoon, as the Tigers jumped all over Nixa in an 11-1 run-rule victory.
While Ozark only tallied seven hits in the six-inning contest, it certainly made the most of its scoring opportunities..
Three of Ozark’s runs were driven in via sacrifice flies, and both Blake Mozley and Chuck Hill connected on timely, two-run doubles to help pace the attack.
The Tiger bats helped string together five runs in the bottom of the second, and then the team’s pitching and defense was able to turn away any chance for a Nixa rally.
Ozark head coach Mike Essick was pleased with his team’s effectiveness in crucial situations at the plate.
“What I was most impressed with tonight is how we hit in situations where we could manufacture a run,” Essick said. “We got fly balls when we needed sac fly balls to score runs tonight. Once Parker [Hanks] got settled in, it was just pretty consistent and, yeah, It was just a good outing.”
Hanks threw all six innings for the Tigers, scattering six hits and notching six strikeouts in a gritty performance where changing winds challenged his pitch collection.
“I thought [Hanks] looked solid,” Essick said. “When he can throw into the wind, that’s when he gets a lot of movement. This kind of works against that two-seamer of his because he gets a lot of run, but I thought it was a solid performance.”
Hanks also managed to help out his own cause, defensively.
Trailing 5-0 in the fourth inning, Nixa strung together a pair of walks and a single. Facing a bases-loaded situation with nobody out, Essick trotted out to the mound to visit with the senior left-hander.
“In that situation, you’ve just got to reset yourself,” Hanks said. “Essick came out, got me refocused and just told me to go right after them and trust my stuff. I felt like I did that and really locked in.”
Hanks turned a grounder back to the mound into a 1-2-3 double-play opportunity for the first two outs, and then went right back to work.
“I was pumped,” Hanks said. “At that point, I knew I just had to get the one batter, and I felt like I could get him myself. It really just pumped up everybody around us.”
During the very next at-bat, Cade Little scooped up a grounder to first for the final out of the inning, and the Tigers headed back to the dugout unscathed.
“[Hanks] induced that capped ground ball back to the mound, to home and to first for the double-play,” Essick said. “And now, you’re just like, ‘Holy Cow.’ That was just a turning point for him to be able to do that. I think that was a big momentum switch in the game, right there.”
Nixa head coach Jason Daugherty described the missed opportunity, along with the Eagles’ early defensive miscues, as two of the ball game’s deciding factors.
“First, in the inning where [Ozark] got five runs that, right there, killed us,” Daugherty said. “Then you get the bases loaded with nobody out, you’ve got to have something out of that. When we get nothing out of that, it’s just not going to be our day.”
Nixa’s lone run occurred in the top of the sixth inning when Kinsen Michel drove in Payton Hannah from third on a sacrifice fly.
On an afternoon where not much went Nixa’s way, Daugherty hoped to quickly refocus and move forward in the season.
“They outhit us by one, but we walked way too many guys, hit a couple, had some sloppy defense that killed us — that’s really the tale of the tape. Two bad innings sealed the deal for us.”
Mozley, Hanks and Chuck Hill each collected a pair of RBIs for Ozark.
Both teams are back in action after quick turnarounds. Nixa (9-5) visits Carl Junction on Wednesday, April 18, while Ozark (10-7) travels to Willard on Thursday, April 19.
Ozark – 11, Nixa – 1
Nixa 0 0 0 0 0 1 x — 1
Ozark 0 5 0 3 1 2 x — 2
Hits: Nixa – 6, Ozark – 7
Errors: Nixa – 1, Ozark – 0
LOB: Nixa – 6, Ozark – 5
Parker Hanks (6.00 IP, 6K, 6H, 2BB)
Isaac Mitchell (4.00 IP, 2K, 5H, 5BB, 2HBP)
Jake Jost (1.67 IP, 3K, 2H, 2BB)
Time of game: 1:37