By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa baseball team turned lemons into lemonade Thursday, and, in the processs, may have pointed their season's compass back in the right direction.
After losing their first game by forfeit because they inadvertently failed to heed an official rule, instead of hanging their heads and mechanically going through motions in game two, the Bulldogs put together what was perhaps their best all around game of the season — a 10-0 blowout that lasted only five innings because of the 10-run rule. It was the perfect antidote to despair. and, hopefully, the fons et origo of future accomplishments.
The game was festooned with clutch hitting, great catches and rock-solid defense. And, perhaps more importantly, it was devoid of sulks. Affronted by a mediocre first game at the plate, Seth Griffiths bounced back with a vengeance in game two, going 3-4 with a double and driving in three RBI. Not to be outdone, Collin Schulz went 3-4 with a double and four RBI in the nightcap.
The Bulldogs really busted things open in the top of the second. First, Seth Staton slapped an infield single that drove home a run to give Ottumwa a 1-0 lead. Then, Griffiths blasted a three-run double into the left centerfield gap that upped Ottumwa's lead to 4-0. Moments later, Schulz cracked another double into left centerfield that extended Ottumwa's lead to 5-0.
We feed off each other," Shulz said. "We start putting hit after hit together."
Blake Mooney started game two for Ottumwa, but he struggled to exert command over his pitches and was relieved by Bryce Ward after just two and a third innings of work on the hill. To his credit, Mooney, despite walking five batters, managed to escape the first two innings without surrendering a run. Ward, who entered the game with two runners on base, got the next two batters to fly out to keep the shutout intact.
Ottumwa hung another run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth to go up 6-0. The top of the fifth featured a spectacular play by Schulz at shortstop. The Warriors' batter hit a dying line drive that looked like a sure hit, but Schulz, his body outstretched, made a leaping back hand catch that illuminated the Ottumwa shortstop's athletic prowess and baseball instincts.
"I've seen good plays, but that was a pretty special play there," Ottumwa baseball coach John Jaeger said. "There's not many guys in high school baseball who can make that play."
Schulz, however, was far from the only player to make a defensive gem Thursday. In game one, Griffiths made a diving catch in right field and Staton, who catches pretty much everything within his environs, made an outsanding catch on a foul ball while practically hugging the back fence. Additionally, Ward, while playing third base, fielded a sharply hit ground ball and fired to first base to record an out in the top of the eighth of game one, and Mitch Stuchel, who uses his speed to cover a prodigious amount of ground in the outfield, was busy all day flagging down balls in left field.
"It's a team effort," Jaeger said, "even though a few guys made some superb plays, it was a total team effort tonight. We made some great defensive plays and our approaches at the plate were superb, so hats off to the guys for finally putting all three aspects (hitting, pitching, fielding) together and it just shows them what we can do."
In the bottom of the fifth, the Bulldogs once again got things rolling offensively. Ottumwa's successful inning was catalyzed by Schulz, who ripped a three-run double that ballooned the Bulldogs lead to 9-0. Ottumwa extracted another run from the inning off a Warrior error to pick up the victory.
Game one was an extremely well-played game that ended prematurely because of a temporarily forgotten rule that spoiled what could have been a memorable victory for the Bulldogs. The first game revolved around a terrific pitching dual between Ottumwa's Cooper Smith and the Warrior's Malik Moore, who was making his varsity debut.
Moore, through his pitching, evinced why he was given the nod to toss a varsity game for his team. The Warrior pitcher had Ottumwa's batters off-balance all game, as he recorded 16 strikeouts and allowed just four hits. Moore's balls had a lot of movement, which gave Ottumwa's batters the Bulldogs fits,
Meanwhile, Smith pitched in a fashion that was in stark contrast to Moore. Not one to amass an abundance of strikeouts — he only fanned one Warrior batter — Smith was a paragon of efficiency on the mound, consistently throwing strikes, he issued no walks; and letting his defense make plays behind him.
"He worked well in the zone," Jaeger said. "He got ahead of the batters and really kept them off balance. A few guys really hit the ball hard, but the balls that they hit they went right at our guys."
Smith, although none of the stats from the game will go in the official scorebook, only allowed five hits in nine innings. The game ended abruptly in top of the 10th when, after Smith had fired his first three pitches of the inning, Waukee coach Mark Anderson directed his players to exit the field. Eventually, Anderson, Jaeger and the umpires met at home plate to hash things out. The result of the powwow rendered unfortunate consequences for Ottumwa.
According to Iowa High School rules, a pitcher can't throw more than nine innings in a game. Since Smith had already thrown three pitches in the 10th inning, the Bulldogs were guilty of breaking this rule and would have to forfeit the game. While they could have finished the game just for the sake of finishing it, Jaeger opted to forfeit because he said he didn't want his team to pull out victory that they would later learn would go down as a forfeit.
"I just got caught up in the whole game," Jaeger said. "I knew about it [the rule], which is what kind of bums me out about that. That was a great played high school baseball game."
Ottumwa (6-9, 4-4) plays Monday at Des Moines North.
Game one stats if it would have counted
Ottumwa 0, Waukee 0
Wauk 000 000 0 00 — 0 5 0
Ottu 000 000 0 00— 0 4 1
Waukee battery — Malik Moore (ND) (9IP, 4H, 16K, 1BB), Jordan Niehaus catching.
2B — Levi Schriener.
Hits — Matt Hoeg 1-for-4, Matt Corbett 1-for-4, Schriener 1-for-4, Austin Battaglia 1-for-4.
Ottumwa battery — Cooper Smith (ND, ) (9IP, 5H, 1K), Seth Staton catching.
Hits —Seth Griffiths 1-for-4, Collin Schulz 1-for-4, Kyle Keck 1-for-4, Tyler Johns 1-for-3.
Ottumwa 10, Waukee 0
Wauk 000 00 — 0 2 3
Ottu 000 00 — 10 9 0
Waukee battery — Austin Orvis (L, 0-1) (1 1/3 IP, 4H, 5R, 5ER, 1K, 3BB), Mick Price (1 2/3IP, 3BB), Tyler Johnson (2IP, 5H, 5R, 4ER, 5K, 1BB) Niehaus catching.
2B —Kyle Kubiak.
Hits — Johnson 1-for-3, Kubiak 1-for-1.
Ottumwa battery — Blake Mooney (ND, 0-1) (2 1/3 IP, 1H, 5BB), Ward (W, 3-0) (1 2/3 IP, 1H), Austin Denniston (1IP) Staton catching.
2B — Schulz 2, Johns, Griffiths.
Hits —Griffiths 3-for-4, Schulz 3-for-4, Mooney 1-for-2, Chris Peden 1-for-2, Johns 2-for-3, Staton 1-for-2.
RBI — Schulz 4, Griffiths 3, Staton.
Runs— Griffiths 2, Cody Miller, Curtis Schneckloth 2, Spencer Nelson, Schulz 2, Johns 2.