By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Ozark Tigers played host to the Kickapoo Chiefs on Tuesday afternoon. The game was sloppy throughout with errors, hit batsmen and several walks.
Kickapoo’s leadoff hitter, Mason Auer, set the tone for the game when he hit a line drive to third base that was promptly booted; this was the first of eight Ozark errors. Ozark starting pitcher Dylan Frandsen got the next hitter to fly out but then walked the next two to load the bases. A possible double play ball was booted, allowing two runs to score, putting Frandsen on the ropes early. Frandsen bore down and struck out the last two Kickapoo hitters to end the inning, limiting the Chiefs to just two runs.
In Ozark’s half of the first, senior Blake Mozley drew a leadoff walk but was stranded there when Auer struck out the next three Tiger hitters. In the second and third innings there was no scoring, although both teams had several runners left on base.
In the fourth inning, Kickapoo scored a run on another error and junior Will Bailey made them pay with a double to right center field. Ozark, who had managed only one hit until the fourth inning, took advantage of Auer’s wildness on the mound. The Tigers would bat around in the inning, scoring five runs on two hits, two walks, one hit batsman, and one Kickapoo error. The score after four was Ozark 5, Kickapoo 3.
Kickapoo quickly answered in the top of the fifth when the Chiefs scored five runs on two hits, two walks, and three Ozark errors. The big hit in the inning was by sophomore Garrett Bauer who cleared the bases with a triple. Bauer scored later on a sacrifice fly, making the score 8-5 in favor of the Chiefs.
“We got at-bats throughout the day with Will Bailey as well as Garrett Bauer, whose huge two strike hit cleared the loaded bases,” said Kickapoo coach Jason Howser. “I think that was a huge momentum switch on our end. Bauer did a good job of two strikes all day long, and as a sophomore getting in there and making adjustments he does a great job.”
After Kickapoo’s David Senn closed out the fifth inning, sophomore Zach McKinnis finished up the game. This marked the second time for McKinnis to be on the mound this season, after sitting out last season due to injury.
“I was just excited to finally get out there, last year I was hurt and didn’t really have an opportunity to get out,” said McKinnis. “I’ve been waiting for this for about a year. I feel pretty good. I felt pretty good with my fastball location and I felt confident with it although it got away from me a few times. I had a few curveballs that came in right where I wanted them to, for a couple first-pitch strikes.”
McKinnis pitched the last three innings, allowing just three hits and one walk, while striking out three. Ozark’s relief pitching also quieted the bats; Rylee Sundlie allowed just one hit in two innings of relief work.
When asked about his team’s performance, Ozark coach Mike Essick was not impressed.
“Absolutely nothing to talk about, that is horrendous baseball,” said Essick. “That’s the way we’ve played every game so far this season, we are 5 for 5 in playing like that, exactly how we’ve played for five straight games. I don’t know how we are going to change it; I’m kind of miffed right now. I’ve never seen a team, or had a team, you know, that’s been in a funk like this for the first five games of the season. Practices are usually pretty good, I just don’t know if its fear, coaching, talent, I don’t know. Maybe all of the above; I just don’t know. We were ahead, up two, with three innings to go. We walked seven, we hit one, and we made eight errors. I hope we get it figured out pretty soon, it’s frustrating. You put 16 runners on base for free and that’s basically what we’ve done all season. Only one way to go, it can’t get worse.”
Howser expected a well-pitched game with both aces on the mound. However, with it being early in the season anything can, and did, happen.
“I think there were a lot of mistakes made by both clubs but it’s still fairly early in the season so you kind of expect a little bit of that,” said Howser. “I don’t want to speak for their team but for our guy, Mason Auer, we were anticipating more strikes, more command of the zone throughout the game. He’s got great stuff but his command needs to improve, and he knows that. He’s been working on it and it’s actually getting better. We’ve got great bullpen relief from Dave Senn; even though he came in and hit a guy, he got us out of a jam. Then we came in with Zach McKinnis and he did an outstanding job of commanding the zone and throwing a lot of strikes.”
Offensively, Howser was pleased with his team’s performance at the plate.
“I thought we did a real good job today with two strikes,” said Howser. “We didn’t always get a hit with two strikes but we didn’t take strikeouts and we put the ball in play. I thought the two strike approaches from our guys really paid dividends long term, making Ozark make plays on the other end of it. They weren’t as sound as an Ozark team usually is, but it’s early in the season for them, as well, so obviously they’ll get better. We’ve got to continue to get better, as well. Saturday we have Jeff City Helias and Battle High School out of Columbia. You only get 30 games so why not play everybody that you can? That’s kind of our motto. We’d rather see very, very good competition; I think that makes us better. Our kids would rather play the very good competition at the end of the day.”
Kickapoo 8, Ozark 5
Kickapoo 200 150 0 — 8
Ozark 000 500 0 — 5