By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, MO — Turns out the fourth time is actually the charm for Rolla.
After falling to Willard in three-straight district tournaments, the Bulldogs finally broke through Tuesday night, capturing the Class 5 District 10 championship in a thrilling, 4-3 victory.
Senior Davie Pound led the Rolla bat attack with 2 RBIs, while junior Treyton Ruth kept the dangerous Willard lineup off-balance for most of the game.
For six innings, Ruth was simply dominant, throwing a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts.
In the seventh, however, the right-hander began to labor.
Sophomore Garrett Rice led off the inning with a solo home run to left, and senior Cameron Pope crushed a two-run blast over the center field wall to cut the Bulldog lead to a single run.
Left for dead minutes earlier, the Tigers were now within striking distance and roughing up Rolla’s starter.
Unfortunately for Willard, that starter’s big brother took notice.
With one out in the seventh, the Bulldogs brought in senior Jeremiah Ruth to stem the tide and close out the game.
“I was just trying to keep my composure,” the elder Ruth said. “He pitched a hell of a game, and I just wanted to back him up. Willard’s gotten the best of me the last two years, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again.”
After giving up a single to Willard sophomore Cole Biellier, the elder Ruth received some much-needed help from his defense. Biellier was gunned down attempting to steal second by senior catcher Zeke Arthur.
Rolla head coach Marty Hauck praised his team’s execution to eliminate the potential tying run from the basepaths.
“Big throwout from Zeke Arthur,” Hauck said. “We’d just worked on that; we actually had a kid come in and work on our second baseman and shortstop covering second base, because we’ve been struggling with that all year. We’re starting to pick up the small details, and those are the things that mattered in this game.”
On the very next at-bat, senior first baseman Tristen O’Neal fielded a hot grounder and flipped the ball to Ruth to clinch the district title for the Bulldogs.
“I made sure I squared the ball up to make sure it was absolutely going nowhere,” O’Neal said. “Once I saw it go into my glove, I think I kind of rushed myself a little bit and it bobbled around. I finally got it picked up, and I saw [Ruth] exactly where he was supposed to be. I tossed it to him, and I knew he was going to catch it.”
Seconds later, Jeremiah Ruth was exactly where he’s always imagined — the bottom of a championship dogpile.
“I’ve been waiting to be at the bottom of that dogpile since I was a freshman,” Ruth said. “I can’t believe we just did it.”
When the dogpile finally cleared, the brothers Ruth were all smiles.
“I knew my brother had it from the start,” Treyton Ruth said. “I knew [Jeremiah] was going to go in there and absolutely shut it down. I trust him more than anything in the world, and he did a great job.”
While Willard fell just short of its bid for a third-straight district title, head coach Scott McGee praised the Tigers for leaving everything on the field in the furious comeback attempt.
“When you’re down 4-0 in the seventh, just to step up and continue to battle your way through things — that’s not something that’s easy to do,” McGee said. “I’m really proud of our guys for what they did. Sometimes, there’s a day when somebody’s just a little bit better than you. Rolla just played a little bit better than us today, and they deserved to beat us.”
Willard finishes up the season with a school record for wins at 25-7.
Up next for Rolla (23-6-1) is a sectional-round matchup with the District 9 champion (Hickman/Rock Bridge) on Tuesday, May 22.
Class 5 District 10 Final: Rolla – 4, Willard – 3
Rolla 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 — 4
Willard 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 — 3
Hits: Rolla – 9, Willard – 5
Errors: Rolla – 0, Willard – 3
LOB: Rolla – 8, Willard – 2
Treyton Ruth (6.33 IP, 6K, 4H, 0BB, 1HBP)
Jeremiah Ruth (.67 IP, 0K, 1H)
Matthew Eleiott (5.67 IP, 5K, 9H, 1BB)
Garrett Rice (1.33 IP, 3K, 0BB)
Time of game: 1:45