The Red and Blue Classic continued on Friday night as the Rolla Bulldogs took on the Nixa Eagles at The Hill.
The game was a defensive showcase for the first six innings, with only one unearned run crossing the plate for Rolla off of a throwing error in the fourth. The Bulldogs broke though in the seventh inning to score three more runs. The Eagles avoided the shutout by plating a run of their own in the seventh, but it was not enough and Rolla would go on to win, 4-1.
With a total of 15 combined strikeouts in the game, the starting pitchers for both teams were the stars of the night. For Nixa, it was the combination of starter Blade Keller and Austin Hyde. Despite the lack of run support from the Nixa offense, Keller powered through the first six innings of the game. He seemingly became more deceptive as the game progressed as he was able to strike out the side in the fifth.
Nixa Head Coach Howard Greenwood was pleased with the perseverance of his pitchers.
“I feel bad for (Keller), when you pitch that well you are supposed to win,” said Greenwood.
Junior Seth Stevens was the winning pitcher for the Bulldogs. While he wasn’t fanning hitters at the rate of his counterpart, he was able to effectively induce outs from an intimidating Eagle offense.
“Going seven innings against a line up like that and limiting them to as few hits as he did, you can’t ask more out of the kid, it’s a heck of an effort,” said Rolla head coach Karl Odenwald of his starter.
With the exception of three errors, two of which came on difficult plays, both teams were flashing the leather in the infield. This was especially key for Rolla in a bases loaded situation in the fifth inning. With only one out, JD Payne hit a hard ground ball that looked to be headed up the middle. Stevens was able to snare the ball above his head and fire it home for the first out. Pizknell then fired the ball down to first base to complete the 1-2-3 double play to get out of the inning.
Steven’s trust in his defense to make big plays helped him pitch effectively.
“I just threw strikes and my defense was behind me,” said Stevens. “I wasn’t trying to overpower (Nixa), I was just painting the edges and it worked out tonight.”
Rolla generated its offense through hustle and attentive base running. The Bulldog’s ability to execute these skills proved crucial in the sixth inning when Hayden Nielsen laid down a perfect suicide-squeeze bunt to score Collin Nash.
Coach Odenwald appreciates that his team is able to do the small things to produce results.
“That’s what are strength is, we don’t have guys who are going to hit it out of the park, we get on base and execute to move them over,” said Odenwald.
The Nixa bats came to life in the seventh inning when Scott Minehardt stroked a double to right field to score Keller from first. Despite only having one run to show for the effort, the Nixa offense was making good contact with the ball the whole game. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Bulldogs seemed to be positioned perfectly to make plays in the field.
“We had a lot of opportunities in this game to score, Rolla just played outstanding defense,” said Greenwood. “It’s the nature of the game, sometimes you hit the ball hard, but you just hit it right at them.”
A victory over a quality team like Nixa signifies a major point for the Rolla program.
“This is a big win for our program, that’s a great team in the other dugout,” said Odenwald. “This is a great stepping stone for Rolla Baseball.”
Nixa falls to 3-3 and plays against Aurora at Glendale Saturday at noon.
Rolla 4, Nixa 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Rolla: 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 - 4
Nixa: 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 1