The Rolla baseball team (10-2, 3-2 OC) hosted Camdenton (6-9, 2-4 OC) for an Ozark Conference matchup on Monday, April 17. Camdenton was able to take an early lead on the back of some defensive miscues from Rolla, but the Bulldogs scored eight runs in the final four innings to walk away with a 10-4 win over their conference rival.
The game started off as a bit of a pitcher's dual. After a scoreless first inning, Rolla was able to strike first on an RBI single by Trey Sinnott in the bottom of the second. Camdenton was able to respond in the top of the third, but they got a lot of help from the Rolla defense.
Tyler Leek led off the third with a double for the Lakers and was followed by a pop out from Dylan McGuire. Rolla starter Jeremiah Ruth should've then had his second out of the inning when he induced a lazy fly ball from Brogun Betta, but the ball bounced out of Hunter House's glove in right field, putting runners on the corners with one out. Parker Stidham then drove in Camdenton's first run of the game with a single up the middle to tie the game at one. Shane Randall followed him with a sac bunt, but a wild throw from Ruth allowed a second run to score and put runners on the corners again. A steal attempt from Randall then turned into another run when Bulldog catcher Zeke Arthur fired his throw into centerfield, which also allowed Randall to advance to third. A groundout by Camdenton starting pitcher Austin Stamper led to their fourth and final run of the inning. All four runs were unearned on Ruth's final stat line.
Rolla was able to cut into their 4-1 deficit in the bottom of the third when Tristan O'Neal scored on a passed ball. That started the comeback that the Bulldogs would go on to complete in the fourth.
Ruth locked things down for the rest of the game for Rolla, he just needed his offense to push some runs across. The junior had a masterful performance where he allowed no earned runs and struck out five in a complete game.
Camdenton's starter came out of the game after three innings and was relieved by Betta. Stamper allowed two earned runs and struck out four, while walking four, in his three innings of work. Betta, who is generally one of the more consistent pitchers on the Laker staff, was brought in to hold the lead, but he struggled with control in the fourth inning. He was able to get Davie Pound to flyout to center to lead off the inning, but allowed House and Brett Gonzalez to reach on back to back singles. Zeke Arthur attempted to bunt them over, but a perfectly placed bunt allowed him to reach first when the Laker second baseman failed to cover first base. This was the turning point in the game for Camdenton head coach Bryce Durnin.
"We talk about when you feel bunt plays, as long as you get one out, you feel better about yourself and you'll minimize the inning," said Durnin. "That's a good teaching point for us, we had one out already and they had a couple of guys on. They bunted and we had a second baseman that was out of position and didn't understand the play and everybody was safe and that's really for me when the floodgates opened. It's that small thing in the game of baseball that seems so easy and we practice it all the time, but you miss that one opportunity to get at least one out, which was tailor-made...that would've been two outs."
Rolla took advantage of the the opportunity to string some runs together. Zach Studdard came up and roped a double over the head of Stamper in left, which drove in a pair of runs to tie the game. O'Neal then came up and walked to load the bases, before Betta walked Noah Doyle to allow another run, giving the lead back to Rolla. Studdard then scored on a passed ball to push the Rolla lead to 6-4.
Cameron Rhodes came in for Camdenton to try to limit the damage in the fifth, but the Bulldogs managed to get another run across on a sac fly from Studdard. He stayed in the game for the start of the sixth, allowing a single to Doyle before being removed for Kody Koon. Later in the inning, House drove in two runs with a single and Arthur knocked in one more with a single of his own to push the lead to 10-4.
Rolla just needed one more strong inning to finish off the win and that was exactly what they got from Ruth. Head coach Marty Hauck challenged him to finish off the game when he only had 14 pitches left in his pitch count. He needed just seven to get three outs and finish off the win.
"Jeremiah Ruth on the mound does a great job throwing a complete game for us," said coach Hauck. "We issued him a challenge and he met the challenge for sure. In the last inning he had 14 pitches left before I had to pull him and he knew that going into it and he came out with seven. The kids are responding, for sure, with every challenge that I put forth on them."
Rolla has won this matchup by at least 10 runs in the past few seasons, so coach Durnin knew he had his hands full coming in. He just wants to see his team continue to take strides in his second year as Camdenton's head coach.
"The year before I came here Rolla beat this team 24-4. Last year I felt like it took everything I had to keep it 10-0, so coming into it I knew we had to play our best," said coach Durnin. "Everything is about learning and growing. From here it's about going through and looking at the things we did well and teaching the things that we didn't and that we need to improve on."
Coach Hauck had a few major focuses coming into the season that included aggressive baserunning and hitting with runners in scoring position. Rolla did that with three steals and had some chances to score on passed balls. They also hit much better with runners in scoring position than they have in the last few games. One of the biggest contributors in that area was Studdard, who drove in three runs to lead the Bulldogs. House also drove in a pair of runs on two hits, while Arthur, Simmons and Sinnott each drove in one. Hauck liked what he saw, but wants his team to continue to improve.
"Yeah (this is what we want to see) and I think we could even do more," said Hauck. "You always want more, as a coach you always want more. I think we had four innings where we left guys on second and third and I want those in. We can't leave a guy in scoring position. That's one of the goals we had and we're continuing to do that right now. We gotta keep coming up with those big hits."
Rolla has their work cut out for them the rest of the week and that starts with a huge game at home on Wednesday, April 19. They'll host Jeff City, who beat them 3-2 in extra innings last season and made a deep run in the State tournament. Next up for Camdenton is their wood bat tournament that they co-host with Lebanon on Friday and Saturday, April 21-22. They'll host Kirksville and Ladue Horton Watkins on Friday.