Ozark coach Mike Essick got just what he expected in his club’s 4-2 win over visiting Kickapoo Wednesday evening.
“Both teams have struggled offensively early in the season, so (Kickapoo coach Jason Howser) and I both knew it was going to be a pitching duel,” Essick said after the game. “Logan Wiley is their No. 1 and Trey Faulconer is our No. 1. It was just a good, National League ballgame.”
PHOTOS: OZARK VS. KICKAPOO BASEBALL
The Tigers got to Kickapoo ace Logan Wiley for a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, as No. 5 hitter Seth Wheeler reached on an error and scored on a Zeke Barnes double to the wall in right-center. Barnes later scored on a bloop single by Grant Higgins to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
The bottom half of the Ozark order came through again in the fourth inning, as Heath Carmichael drew a one-out walk, setting the table for a Garrett Romines home run to right.
“I think it was a fastball,” said Romines. “I kept my swing short and kept my head on the ball. I wasn’t trying to hit a home run, but it happened. (Wiley) is probably the best pitcher we’ve faced all year. Kickapoo always has a good team and we know we’re going to get their best.”
“Zeke did a good job getting us on the board with that double in the gap, and Garrett had the home run,” said Essick. “That’s the thing that I expressed to them. In basketball and football it’s always going to be LeBron James or Adrian Peterson that gets the headlines. In baseball it can be a different guy every night, as long as you’re willing to battle and have a good at-bat.”
Good at-bats were the trouble for Kickapoo, however.
“We didn’t have any timely hitting today,” said Howser. “We had runners in scoring position, we just couldn’t get the timely hit. A lot of that is credit to their pitchers for making good pitches. A lot of that is us being stubborn and trying to pull pitches we shouldn’t pull. We’ll figure it out.”
It was actually Kickapoo that got on the board first, as an error on Austin Tebo’s single to right scored Danny Cruz all the way from first to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
But they wouldn’t score again until the sixth, taking advantage of another Ozark error. This time it was on a Ryan Stevens ground ball with one out and nobody on. Kickapoo loaded the bases before Jake Smith reached on a fielder’s choice to plate a run. But a strikeout ended the rally with the game-tying run on first.
Faulconer allowed one run on two hits in four full innings of work for Ozark (3-2). The junior had three walks, a hit batsman and one strikeout. Barnes was solid in relief, allowing one run on three hits in three innings. He walked one and struck out one.
Wiley’s line was four innings and four runs on three hits. He walked two, hit one, and struck out one. Kyle Giefer retired the only batter he faced, while Zach Boeding retired five straight to end the game.
“Wiley didn’t have his best stuff today, but he competed,” said Howser. “He left some balls up and they made him pay.”