Second inning surge propels Osage baseball over Macks Creek
It was a team effort Thursday night at School of the Osage.
The Indians collected nine hits as a team, multiple players drove in runs and an alert defense helped a trio of pitchers keep things calm in a 9-1 win over Macks Creek in a Lake area matchup. Osage was actually the visiting team Thursday night due to the field conditions at Macks Creek, but the team managed to protect actual home turf.
“Combined with our three pitchers we held them to one hit tonight. Defensively, we only had one error and it was in the seventh inning,” Osage coach David Flaspohler noted as his club executed a pair of double plays on the night and managed eight combined walks and a hit-by-pitch to keep any potential Macks Creek runs at bay.
“Would like better command at the plate to alleviate some of those walks and hit-by-pitches, but overall I was proud of their perseverance and overcoming those things with our defense helping us out a little bit. A few base running mistakes on their (Macks Creek) end, but overall pretty pleased with what happened on the mound and defensively.”
The Indians were tested right away in the first inning as Macks Creek attempted a double steal with runners on the corners to try and get the first run of the night. After senior Tanner Smith broke for second base, fellow senior Grant English broke for home and was narrowly caught on a tag by Osage sophomore catcher Trey Johnson to end the inning.
“We’ve been emphasizing that we have to communicate out on the field and I think we are starting to slowly execute that,” Osage senior Dominick Vernetti said of his team’s defensive efforts.
Then, the Osage offense got to work in the second.
An RBI single from Johnson brought in the first run of the night and it was followed up with an RBI on an error for sophomore Jackson Funderburk and RBI on a groundout from Vernetti while the Indians also scored on a pair of wild pitches to secure an early 5-0 lead.
“That is the biggest thing all season- we’ve always given up a big inning and the second inning was our big inning for the night. After that, we settled down and made some good plays defensively,” Macks Creek coach Jason Trusty said, noting a stretch by English at shortstop and tough throw to first to beat the runner that showed the senior’s range.
English actually started on the mound Thursday evening and took the loss after allowing five runs on fur hits while striking out three and walking one in 1 2/3 innings. Smith worked 3 1/3 innings in relief allowing three runs on four hits while striking out two and walking one and freshman Dakota Willis closed the evening out where he allowed a run on two hits while recording a strikeout.
“We just have to figure out ways to play defense when he is on the bump,” Trusty said of English as the Pirate defense committed three errors on the night. “I think that will really help us as we get closer to districts.”
Osage junior Dalton Stoecklein picked up a tough RBI in the fourth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to make it 6-0 and the Indians added another pair of runs in the fifth on a double from Vernetti as he picked up his second and third RBI of the night to lead the way offensively. The final run came from freshman Tyler Shull who drove in a run on a groundout.
All together, it was an efficient night for the Osage bats and Flaspohler will gladly accept that on any given night.
“Nine runs on nine hits,” he pointed out. “The bats came alive a little bit more than they have in recent games. We are still trying to develop with these young guys. That approach at the plate is going to be conducive throughout the lineup.”
It was a little bit tougher for the team in the other dugout across the way as the Pirates sought to patiently work a trio of Osage pitchers in sophomore Ryan King, Shull and Vernetti. King worked the first three innings allowing no hits while striking out two and walking four, Shull advanced the night allowing a hit and walk while striking out three in 2 2/3 innings and Vernetti closed things out with a trio of walks and a strikeout.
Macks Creek had baserunners Thursday night, drawing a total of eight walks, but a hit from senior Trever Smith did not come until the sixth inning and proved to be the lone hit of the night. The Pirates scored their lone run in the sixth when freshman Kyler Gabriel reached home plate on a dropped strikeout.
“The last couple of games out we’ve actually put the ball in play a little more consistently and I told the boys that if we keep hitting it, eventually it is going to go away from people and we are going to find holes,” Trusty said of the offensive woes.
And, the Pirates were making contact. It may simply just be a matter of time before the odds turn in their favor. The coach said the key thing was to just relax as his young team continues to grow and develop and he likes what he sees.
“I told the guys there is no pressure. The only pressure you are going to have is what you put on yourself, so, if you get a pitch to handle be aggressive,” Trusty remarked. “If I need you to back off, I’ll tell you. Other than that, I thought we did a pretty good job of working counts and forcing them (Osage) to throw a few more pitches than they planned on throwing and not chasing.
“It is just kind of the evolution of the hitting we’ve been doing- trying to force pitchers to throw more pitches, get into pitch counts and get into bullpens.”
Macks Creek (3-8) was scheduled to visit Climax Springs (1-9) on Friday, visit Wheatland (6-4) on Saturday and host Humansville (4-9) on Monday at 5 p.m. Trusty just wants to see his young guys continue to find that right stride, and conveniently so for districts.
“With all the wonderful weather we’ve had this spring, we’ve had a lot of chances to work in the cage,” he said sarcastically of batting practice. “We are starting to see some of the guys being able to translate that from the cage to the ballpark and we are hoping we can continue to keep doing that as we roll into our district season here in the next couple of weeks to see how things go. We are young, but our youth is going to get better. We have guys that can supplement and we have older guys that push the younger guys as well.
“As we get closer to districts, I think we have a good opportunity to surprise some people and possibly surprise ourselves.”
Osage (6-5) was scheduled to play in the Versailles and California “Turf War” Tournament over the weekend and the Indians will be visiting Southern Boone (15-1) on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
“Really, tonight, the key was building as we go into the weekend and really- the big picture- preparing for districts,” Flaspohler said Thursday night.
“Communication, keeping the big picture in mind and focusing on the process and not the results,” he added of the keys moving forward.
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-346-2132