OTTUMWA — Sometimes, all it takes is one. Sometimes, it takes much more.
Ankeny Centennial picked up a pair of wins at Ottumwa, winning two very different ball games against the Bulldogs. After earning a 1-0 win in the opening game, highlighted by a two-hit shutout tossed by Trey Morris, the Jaguars broke things open in game two scoring four times in the very first inning and nine times in the fifth to lock up a 16-3 victory.
"It was more of a mental lapse for us. We were just not mentally into the second game," Ottumwa head baseball coach John Jaeger said. "It's one of those things, especially pitching in that game, if you're not mentally prepared, it can be a struggle.
The losses were the first two at home for the Bulldogs after sweeping doubleheaders at Legion Memorial Field over Indianola and Des Moines Hoover. Trae Swartz broke out in game two with a pair of hits while Adam Denniston delivered a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the first inning of the nightcap, bringing Ottumwa within 4-2.
"It's a learning curve for us," Jaeger said. "I've told the kids we're going to take some lumps this season, but we can't afford to beat ourselves. I think we beat ourselves in that second game."
Jackson Grooms and Morris matched zeroes throughout the first four innings of game one as both pitchers worked around danger in the very first inning. Grooms retired three straight batters after the first two Jaguar batters of the game reached base while Morris struck out the side in the bottom of the first, the last two of which came after two errors and a Jesus Jaime single put Bulldog runners at second and third.
Centennial continued to threaten, putting a runner in scoring position during six of the seven innings in game one. The defense of the Bulldogs helped keep the opener scoreless through four with line drives caught on the infield by Dominic Delehoy and Jesus Jaime during the first three frames, the later of which turned into an inning-ending double play in the third.
Andrew Cole also prevented a run from scoring in the second inning, making a running catch in deep left to retire Keaton Gray with a runner at second base. Cole could not take a hit away from Nathan Reinke in the fifth, setting up Morris for a breakthrough RBI single to right that plated Derek Boike and finally put the Jaguars (9-2) on top.
That would be plenty for Morris, who retired 18 of the final 19 Ottumwa batters. Zach Burtch's lead-off double in the second and Jaime's first-inning single were the only hits allowed by Morris, who struck out 12 batters in a complete-game effort on the mound.
"In games like that, it's a matter of who can capitalize on the small things," Jaeger said of the opener. "Centennial was able to scoot that run across. We couldn't get runs across early. In close games like those, it's a matter of who can get that first run and first key hit. Unfortunately, it was Centennial that got it."
Ottumwa (5-4) hosts Des Moines North in a CIML Metro conference doubleheader Monday starting at 5 p.m. The Bulldogs also host a Metro doubleheader against Des Moines Lincoln on Wednesday.
"This is a week that can really get our feet going in the right direction, especially in the conference race," Jaeger said. "We've got a chance to gain a lot of confidence forward through the rest of the month."
Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.