OTTUMWA — There's no place like home.
The Ottumwa baseball team proved that on Thursday, making a success 2019 debut at Legion Memorial Field. The Bulldogs shook off a season-opening loss exactly one week earlier at Oskaloosa, pulling away for a 12-6 win in the opening game of a varsity doubleheader with Indianola.
"I think, in that first game, we were still getting a lot of the jitters out of our system playing varsity for the first time," OHS sophomore center fielder Colton McKinnon said. "We got our bats going, which was part of our problem at Oskaloosa."
Ottumwa doubled up their win total, completing their first doubleheader sweep with a 2-1 victory in the nightcap. The Bulldog defense stepped up, completing three double plays to stymie the Indianola offense before snapping a 1-1 tie in the sixth on a fielding error that plated Adam Denniston, who reached after becoming the third Bulldog batter to be hit by a pitch during the night.
Ottumwa had just five hits for the second straight game, but more than doubled their total numbers of walks drawn. All told, Indianola pitchers allowed 13 walks to the Bulldogs to go along with a pair of hit batters and two fielding errors.
"As the season goes, we're going to get even better with that," OHS sophomore shortstop Mitch Wood said. "We're already in game two, but it looked like we were in game 20 with the way we approached our at-bats. Things are looking good so far."
The Bulldogs set an early tone that things would be different against Indianola after allowing Oskaloosa to score the final 10 runs in last week's season opener. After allowing a pair of first-inning runs to Indianola, Ottumwa answered immediately as back-to-back walks by Wood and Adam Denniston helped set the table for Logan Chickering and Jesus Jaime.
Chickering brought in Denniston with a sacrifice fly to center. Jaime then came up with a clutch two-out single that scored Wood, tying the game at 2-2.
"Coach (John Jaeger) likes to say we need to win every inning," Wood said. "We were right there with them early on in every inning."
Indianola again challenged Ottumwa to match a two-run rally in the second, the first run scoring on Quinn Vesey's second double that rolled past McKinnon's diving attempt for a catch in center. McKinnon evened the score at the plate, driving in Andrew Cole and Dominick Delehoy with a two-run single that tied the score at 4-4.
"It helped getting as many guys on base as we did early on," McKinnon said. "Most of our at-bats, we were hitting with runners in scoring position."
The Bulldogs loaded the bases in three consecutive innings. After stranding the bases loaded in the third, Trae Swartz put OHS ahead for good drawing a bases-loaded walk in the fourth. Swartz would drive in two more runs with a single, the only hit in a six-run fifth for Ottumwa.
"We're still learning a lot from game to game. We're still pretty young," Swartz said. "We learned a lot from the first game. You can't give up. You just have to keep working from inning to inning and hope it works out."
Wood picked up his first save on the mound, working around a pair of walks in the top of the seventh. The Bulldog sophomore and future Iowa Hawkeye, playing in front of Iowa head coach Rick Heller, struck out Johnson to complete the OHS sweep.
Ottumwa (2-1) will be back in action on Monday, opening defense of their CIML Metro conference title at home against Des Moines Hoover at 5 p.m. The Bulldogs won their first 18 conference games on way to the program's second Metro championship last summer.