The Ozark Tigers have had no problems getting runners on base this season. Their problems have come with the next step: bringing those players across home plate.
But leaving runners on base wasn’t much of a problem for Ozark on Tuesday night, thanks in part to some shaky Republic defense. Ozark scored four runs off three Republic errors in the fourth inning to win 7-1 at home.
“That’s what we’ve done all year,” said Ozark coach Mike Essick. “We’ll get guys on and leave them there. There’s no telling… I’d like to go back and look at the scorebook and see how many guys we’ve stranded all year long like that. We’ve just got to bear down with runners in scoring position; those are the hits that win ball games.”
With runners on first and second, Ozark broke a 1-all tie when No. 9 hitter Tanner Nickels smacked an RBI single to left field.
Nickels took second base on the throw home. He was safe after the throw from Republic catcher Creed Smiley bounced away. That enabled Heath Carmichael to score from third, making it 3-1.
Nickels would come around to score when leadoff hitter Zeke Barnes reached first base following a Republic fielding error. Ozark went up 5-1 when the next hitter, Sawyer Alderson, delivered an RBI single after Barnes had taken second on a wild pitch.
“We threw it around a little bit in the fourth (inning) there for Ozark,” said Republic coach Howard Quigley. “That was four runs for them. And they hit the ball well, too. Nathan (Strobel) is a good pitcher and (Ozark) put the ball in play on him.”
Ozark (4-3 overall) tallied five hits in the first three innings against Strobel, who will pitch at Missouri Southern State next year.
“They hit some balls at us but we hit some balls at them too,” Essick said. “It was good to see us get 10 hits off of, I feel, one of the best pitchers in southwest Missouri. It was a good win for us, especially the way we’ve been playing offensively.”
Ozark starting pitcher Trey Faulconer surrendered one run and five hits in four innings while battling flu-like symptoms.
“I told him, ‘You gotta focus on your competition and not your sickness and ailments,’” Essick said. “And he battled. You could tell, he was just inconsistent and didn’t feel good. You know what, he gave us four good innings and Caleb came in and did what he needed to do.”
Faulconer gave way to Caleb Essick, who underwent nerve surgery on his arm last year. Caleb Essick went the remaining three innings on the mound in his first significant pitching action in about a year.
Republic (3-4 overall) scored its lone run of the game with the bases loaded and one out in the third. Riley Norris’ fly ball to center was converted into a double play after the Republic runner was tagged out at third. The home plate umpire ruled the runner came across home plate before the tag-out was made.
“We’re struggling with the bats right now,” Quigley said. “We’ve been playing good defense, for the most part, all year – we had three errors tonight. That’s untypical of what we usually do.”
Nickels finished with three hits on the night and Garrett Romines hit two doubles for Ozark. Strobel collected three hits at the plate.
Seth Wheeler hit a 2-run single in the sixth for Ozark.