Osage softball finds the bats for comeback win over Eldon

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Osage senior Maddie Arwood waits for her pitch in a game against Eldon on Monday, September 14, in Osage Beach. Arwood's bases-clearing triple in the fourth inning put the Indians ahead for good.

Osage senior Maddie Arwood did not care how it happened, she just wanted to give her team the lead.

After junior teammate Carly Ward tied the game with a 2-RBI double in the fourth inning on Senior Night against Eldon Monday night, Arwood’s opportunity came with the bases loaded a few moments later.

And she did not disappoint.

The senior delivered a bases-clearing triple up the left field line to give the Indians the lead for good and the rest of the offense came alive as well with 10 total hits in a 9-2 win over the Indians.

“I just wanted to win, I didn’t care how we did it. You have to keep it simple and go from there,” Arwood said.

“Just make contact, didn’t matter where it went. Just have to get the bases gone.”

That was certainly fine with Osage coach David Flaspohler who was happy to see the senior come through on her special night.

“Not only for herself, but her teammates,” the coach pointed out. “I know it was a big sigh of relief from her. It is good to see her succeed and smile.”

Ward may have started the spark, initially tying the game with her bat, but she certainly made sure to protect the lead once it was seized. The junior hurler allowed five hits and struck out 10 in a complete game performance and after the visiting Mustangs scored their final run in the third, it was 1-2-3 innings the rest of the night as Ward found her command and did not allow any baserunners to get on the rest of the way.

“The first two hitters in their lineup is what caused us problems. They had four out of their five hits and ended up scoring their two runs,” Flaspohler noted. “Once we could lock that down, Carly changed speeds and locations throughout the game and she really settled in. The defense was solid for us tonight, too. We, for a change, looked really good with no errors so pretty sure-handed. Hopefully, we can build upon that and it was good to get the second conference win out of the way. Being Senior Night with a rival, it means something a little more special.”

That is precisely how Ward felt as she wanted to make sure her senior teammates got the win on the night they were honored.

“Really, it is staying in my zone and controlling what I can control. Knowing that, I just wanted to do it for the seniors tonight,” the pitcher said as she was also helped out by her defense, including a diving catch on a pop fly near home plate by freshman Bailey Luttrell.

“We act like a family and play as a family and when we come together, it is really an amazing thing to do.”

For Eldon, it was the team’s first game since playing in the Sullivan Tournament back on August 29. The program had not been able to escape the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, having four games cancelled while the team was in quarantine the past couple of weeks. For part of that time, there were only four players able to practice and the team just had two full days of practice with almost everyone back on Friday and Saturday before Monday night’s showdown. The team is still missing two of its starters.

For a team that has missed significant time, Eldon certainly did not seem to look very rusty, though.

The Mustangs struck first as junior Chloe Ruark delivered an RBI in the first and she brought her bat back in the third with an RBI double to give her team an early 2-0 lead. Eldon made plenty of solid contact throughout the evening, but the ball just happened to find the glove of Osage players a little too often.

“I was very pleased considering we had not been on the field together in two weeks because of quarantine. After two days (practice) and playing like we did tonight, we’re just happy to be back on the field,” Eldon coach Dusty Purnell said. “Defensively, we had one error and had not been together so we are very pleased with what we saw. It is a place to start right now and we can grow.”

And Eldon will surely not take anything for granted moving forward, either.

“I think they realized after it was taken away from them for two weeks how quickly it can go away, especially with the situation we are in now with all this stuff going on,” Purnell stated. “I think they are grateful to be out here and ready to play again. We are going to try to hang on to it as long as we can.”

After a big fourth inning from the Osage bats, the Indians continued to find their rhythm offensively as junior Reese Good delivered an RBI single and Ward hit a sacrifice fly RBI in the fifth. The Indians scored their final two runs of the night in the sixth off a wild pitch and RBI single from senior Paige Luttrell.

Ruark was in the circle pitching for Eldon and the junior showed plenty of command early. With some time off and only really able to continue throwing from home during quarantine, Purnell said fatigue may have played a little factor as she finished the night striking out four and walking one in six innings of work.

“I think time off kind of helped and hurt… She still threw well,” Purnell said of the hurler. “They were able to put the bat on the ball late in the game and she wore down a little bit. Other than that, they hit the ball where we weren’t and that was the name of the game tonight.”

Eldon (1-4, 0-1 Tri-County Conference) was scheduled to visit Eugene on Tuesday and the Mustangs will be in tournament action at Branson this weekend. For Purnell, the message is safety moving forward so the program can get back to their routine and get some games in.

“Just keep fighting and doing what they are doing,” he said of the message to his team. “We don’t want it (quarantine) to happen again so we have to be careful with some of the things we do and some of the extracurricular stuff we do outside the classroom and practice to keep everyone around us safe.”

Arwood, Paige and seniors Danielle Hazelwood and Liberty Gamm got the kind of night they wanted and Osage’s program is not taking anything for granted either.

“We’re definitely grateful to be able to play, no matter when we play. It is the last year for a lot of things and it has been crazy,” Arwood said of her senior year.

“I think it has brought us together as a family if you ever need someone you can go to,” she added on playing for the program.

Flaspohler said the team can only take things one day at a time in an uncertain situation and he noted how important it was to treat any day like it might be the last day the team can be together, simply because they don’t know what lies ahead. One thing that is certain, is the contributions the seniors have already made for the program.

“They mean a lot to me. They’ve been a big part of what we’ve been able to do the last five years with four district championship appearances so we are looking for their leadership to kind of take a few of the underclassmen under their win and teach them how we do things around here,” the coach stated.

“Just keep taking it one day at a time. It is not about how we start, but how we finish.”

Osage (4-4, 2-0 Tri-County Conference) was scheduled to visit Smith-Cotton on Tuesday and will make a trip to Eugene on Thursday.