By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Ten games in 10 days.
The Willard Tigers are using a simple formula to get through a grueling stretch.
Solid starting pitching, for one. And whenever possible, don’t take seven innings to beat the opponent.
Willard (17-4 overall) posted its third straight run-rule victory Friday afternoon, defeating Glendale 13-3 in five innings at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark.
The Tigers, ranked No. 3 in the Class 5 state coaches’ poll, got a complete game (five innings) from starter Garrett Hunter.
“Our pitchers have pitched deep into games,” said Willard coach Scott McGee. “They’ve been so good.”
Catcher Cole Biellier led Willard’s offense by going 3-for-3 with a double and four RBIs.
Willard also run-ruled conference foes Webb City and Carl Junction earlier this week.
“The (run-rule) saves you innings in the long run, which helps during weeks like these,” McGee said.
The Tigers have won six straight since a 3-0 home loss to Neosho on April 11. Two days before that game, Willard also lost to Nixa in 14 innings.
Willard still has more baseball to play before Easter Sunday. The Tigers picked up another run-rule victory over Kickapoo 10-0 later Friday afternoon, and will return to U.S. Baseball Park on Saturday for a doubleheader against Columbia Hickman and West Plains.
Against Glendale, Hunter gave up five hits and struck out six. He allowed only one earned run and no walks.
“He pitched a really good game,” Biellier said. “That’s like our third or fourth consecutive complete game now. Our pitchers are doing a good job.”
Willard shook off an ugly start. Glendale, behind three Willard errors, went ahead 3-1 in the second inning.
After the third error of the inning, McGee huddled his team together.
“Settle down, don’t allow a huge inning,” McGee said of his message to the team. “If it’s a 3-1 or 4-1 game, we’re still in it. We can’t allow it to become 6-1 or 7-1.”
Willard roared back.
The Tigers chased Glendale starter Jack Hamlin with a five-run third inning.
Noah Wooldridge and Tyler Harre had RBI singles. Reece Dawson capped the inning with a two-run double that put Willard ahead for good, 6-3.
With the bases loaded in the fourth, Biellier’s three-run double pushed Willard’s lead to 9-3.
He blasted another RBI shot in the fifth inning to give Willard the run-rule victory.
“Those balls, if they’re hit at our place, they’re both gone,” McGee said. “It’s been good for him to get going. He’s really been our catalyst the last two weeks on offense.”
Said Biellier: “They both felt good off my bat, so I knew they’d go a long ways. I didn’t think they’d go quite that far, but it was cool to see that.”
Willard and Glendale could meet again next month in the Class 5 state quarterfinals.
“In this area, I don’t feel like there’s a dominant team,” McGee said. “But there are five or six of us who are pretty good. I’m excited for us to potentially play some of these guys again in the postseason.”
Willard 13, Glendale 3
Glendale 0 3 0 0 0 — 3
Willard 1 0 5 3 4 — 13
Hits: Willard 9, Glendale 3
Errors: Willard 4, Glendale 1