Eldon pitcher Drew Rodriguez was in a good mood Monday night.
The veteran senior hurler, who has been engaged in physical therapy since November after dealing with muscle tightness and tearing his rotator cuff, was on the hill for his first start of the season and his arm helped deliver a 5-2 home win over rival Osage.
“It felt pretty good, especially knowing it was my first start back,” Rodriguez said on a night where he allowed just two runs, seven hits and three walks while collecting six strikeouts in a complete game performance. “I think it makes a little bit of a statement for us saying we are not going to sleep on anybody and nobody is going to sleep on us. When everybody is here to play, anybody can win on any given day.”
And his teammates did show up to play, too, as solid defense and a few bats to back him up with some late insurance runs had the senior feeling even better.
“It was great knowing I had a defense behind me. We are a pretty young team still, but I think we have a lot of talent and I think we are here to play,” the senior added.
“The offense came out and we had a couple of guys come off the bench and hit. They stepped up, did their job and took care of business today.”
Both sides inflicted some damage early.
Osage got things started in the first inning with a triple from Dalton Depeé who was brought home on an infield RBI-single from Traygen Whittle to go up 1-0. In the bottom half of the inning, Eldon responded with a leadoff single from Tyler Snow and after Rodriguez drew a walk, Corbin Harrison drove in an RBI-double and an RBI-single from Charlie Mays gave the Mustangs a 2-1 advantage.
Then the game turned into a stalemate as both offenses could not find a way to deliver any runs over the next four innings. Although, there were certainly opportunities.
Osage’s Trey Rassenfoss sought to provide a spark in the fourth as his leadoff single was followed up by a single from Andrew Bryant and after a sacrifice bunt from Braden McLaughlin, Austin Magnuson drew a walk to load the bases with one out. However, Rodriguez pitched himself out of the jam as a groundout and strikeout ended the inning.
“We started out really hot and drove the ball hard,” Osage coach David Flaspoher said. “Later on, we started getting too big at the plate instead of sticking with what was working for us, which was letting it (the ball) get in our zone, let it get deep and barrel it up.”
In the fifth inning, Eldon’s Fisher Snelling got started with a leadoff double and after Austin Pipes reached first base on an error, Dawson Brandt earned a walk to also load up the bases with one out. However, a pop fly to right field on the ensuing at-bat led to an Osage relay where the tagging Mustang runner on third base was thrown out at the plate for a double play.
But Eldon’s offensive drought soon came to an end. Harrison produced a leadoff single in the sixth and a bloop single from Tate Warny led to another RBI-single from Mays, an RBI-single from Landon Wall and a sacrifice fly RBI from Snelling on a diving catch from Osage’s Michael Lasater to put the Mustangs up 5-1.
“I am happy with everybody. We changed the lineup a little bit and everyone responded pretty well,” Eldon coach Chad Hinds noted. “It took us a while to get us going, but like I’ve always said, hitting is contagious.
“Landon Wall come up off the bench cold from not starting, gets a solid 1-0 pitch and drives it in the gap to put us up by two. We punched in two more and there we go.”
Rassenfoss got the start for Osage and the pitcher went five innings allowing eight hits while walking two batters and striking out two. Isaac Yoder came in relief and finished things up allowing two hits of his own.
“In the sixth inning the movement was just not there anymore and it kind of stopped,” Flaspohler said of his starting pitcher’s arm. “Being the competitor that he is, we probably let him go a little longer than we probably should have. Now, Trey has taken this one to heart and we are going to bounce back from it.”
Hinds certainly did not hesitate to give the opposing team some credit.
“It is the fourth game of the year and I give Osage credit. They held us accountable there and especially early with just two runs,” the Mustang skipper said. “Our guys kept grinding and grinding, were finally able to figure it out and string some hits together.”
Osage was not done yet though a walk from Aaron Hancock and a single from Depeé, who led the team with three hits, was followed up by an RBI-double from the bat of Whittle in the seventh. However, Rodriguez ended the threat with a strikeout to finish the game, stranding two Indians in scoring position.
“I was going to try to keep him at a minimal pitch count,” Hinds said of his starter’s recovery from shoulder issues. “Of course, with him being as hard-headed as he is, he said, ‘No I’m good. Give me the ball, I am going back out.’
“I said, ‘Ok, it is on you. If you want it, go out and get it,’ and he proved us all wrong. He went out and threw his butt off so kudos to him.”
The insurance runs in the sixth certainly helped the pitcher’s cause and Mays drove in two of those Eldon runs, but was quick to credit his teammates.
“Those RBIs don’t happen if people don’t get on. Today, we just came out ready to play baseball and that has been an issue throughout the season, but I think we are finally hitting our stride and we are going to play some baseball,” Mays stated.
“It was a real team effort and baseball is about nine guys playing their heart out. Corbin Harrison made some really good plays,” Mays added of the second baseman who produced a couple of hits and made a diving catch in the second inning. “We all just rallied around each other and played hard baseball.”
That was not the only thing Eldon rallied behind, though. Tragedy struck the community last week when Jerry Barsby, a teacher in the district, passed away from an accident.
“The boys were punched in for the day, knew what they had to do and knew who they were playing for,” Hinds said of his club, which picked up its first win of the season. “It took us a little bit to get going, but we got a big ‘W’ for Mr. Barsby.”
Eldon (1-3, 1-1 Tri-County Conference) was scheduled to host Southern Boone Tuesday night and the Mustangs will host Linn on Friday for a makeup game at 5 p.m.
“We have to keep going, keep fighting and every day is a battle,” Rodriguez said Monday night. “We just have to be there ready to play every day.”
Osage (3-5, 1-1 Tri-County Conference) was scheduled to visit Richland on Tuesday and the Indians will take a trip to California for another conference battle on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
“Our biggest thing is just to compete. We have a long week because we have three more games this week and two more conference games in California and Hallsville,” Flaspohler said on Monday. “We have Richland tomorrow so just keep competing, keep grinding and take it one day at a time.”