After losing late leads in three of their first four games, Ottumwa finally closed out their first win of the season on Wednesday at seventh-ranked (4A) Waukee. Clutch pitching by Steven Wilson, a two-run double by Chase Wood and a couple of clutch defensive plays late led the Bulldogs to a 2-1 road triumph over the Warriors.
The early-season offensive struggles of the Bulldogs were compounded on Friday by Fairfield’s Austin Gridley. The senior, making his first pitching start of the season for the Trojans, allowed just one run on three hits while striking out nine batters over six innings of work.
“I felt pretty good out there. I felt like I was in command,” Gridley said. “At the beginning, I had to find the release point (for the breaking ball). It was kind of hard to find, but I got it and I threw in the change up every once and a while.”
Ottumwa has now been held to two runs or less in five of their first six games. For Bulldog head coach John Jaeger, the early-season struggles aren’t necessarily the symptoms of a relatively young team.
“These guys have been playing baseball together for a long time. I’ve seen them play together and I know what they’re capable of,” Jaeger said. “We do have minimal experience at the varsity level. It’s just a matter of guys making the plays on a more consistent level.”
Gridley, one of the 11 upperclassmen on the Fairfield roster, helped his own case offensively by continuing a hot stretch of hitting to start the season. The .462 hitter and team leader with six hits in four games reached in each of his five plate appearances and finished the night 3-3 with a double.
“I actually just changed my swing. It took me a year to get used to it because my swing was too long,” Gridley said. “Now, it’s more short and compact. I’m just hitting the ball nice and hard trying to get the job done.”