OTTUMWA — Head coach John Jaeger didn't know what to expect from the start of the 2019 Ottumwa High School baseball season.
Logan Chickering had an idea that it might be a rough start for the young Bulldogs.
"We thought going in we'd have a tough time to open the season, but we'd finish the season out pretty well," Chickering said. "We've done pretty well so far. We've surprised ourselves."
Ottumwa improved to 9-4 on the season and remained perfect in CIML Metro conference play with a home sweep against Des Moines Lincoln on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs won game one easily, 13-0 in five innings, but had to fight back in a nightcap filled with emotions on and off the field as Ottumwa scored four times in the sixth to win 9-7 over the Railsplitters.
"I'm estatic with how we've played," Jaeger said. "Our guys never doubted that they were going to win that game. Whether we were down one run or four, I could see in their eyes that they believed they were going to come back. The guys played their butts off. Starters played their butts off. The guys on the bench played a key role. It's a great team win and it shows that, no matter how far behind we get, we are capable of coming back."
It wasn't just that Ottumwa rallied from a 7-3 deficit to win the second game of the doubleheader. The Bulldogs had to overcome a Lincoln team that was playing with renewed vigor especially after Logan Chickering was thrown out at home to end the second inning with Ottumwa leading at the time 3-2.
Chickering, beaten by the throw home, slowed up heading the plate leading to mild contact with Lincoln catcher Brandon Chapman on the inning-ending tag. What followed was a lively argument in the stands about the contact, resulting in two fans being ejected after escalting from verbal sparing to brief physical altercation.
"Emotions were high. It was a close game," Chickering said. "I was initially going to run through him (Chapman), but I started to think that I shouldn't do that. We were focused on the game and we were focused on getting back on top."
Instead, it was Lincoln that went back on top as the Railsplitters scored twice in the third to regain a 4-3 lead and added three more runs in the seventh. Run-scoring hits from Jevon Rivera, Michael Spoonholtz and Jasper Wilson gave Lincoln a 7-3 lead with each hit drawing more and more reactions from the Lincoln dugout.
"They were talking a little bit as the game was going on," Chickering said. "We had to find a way to keep our heads in the game. Coach Jaeger always tells us that teams are going to talk like that. We just need to focus on our goal of winning the game."
Dominic Delehoy ingited run-scoring rallies in the fourth and sixth innings by drawing lead off walks, scoring in the fourth on an RBI triple by Colton McKinnon who later scored on a dropped fly ball in right to pull Ottumwa within 7-5.
Delehoy again drew a lead off walk in the sixth. Chickering and Mitch Wood both followed with one-out walks, loading the bases for Jesus Jaime who delivered his third hit of game two with a two-run single into right that tied the score at 7-7.
"I've dreamed about this since I was a kid, playing baseball at a high level," Jaime said. "I never had a doubt in my mind. I knew I was going to hit it."
Chickering would finally slide across home plate successfully later in the inning. After moving to third base on a single by Trae Swartz, Chickering beat the throw home on a ground ball hit to third by Adam Denniston to put Ottumwa on top for good.
"Getting people on base was the biggest key, but we didn't want to leave anyone out on base," Chickering said. "Most of it, for us, is that we're a young team and we're trying to come out and prove ourselves to everyone."
Marcus Saunders earned the win on the mound in game one, allowing just two hits in a five-inning shutout of the Railsplitters. Swartz drove in three runs on two hits, including a two-run triple to right during a four-run opening inning for OHS.
The loss drops Lincoln to 5-11 overall with a 2-4 CIML Metro record. Ottumwa, now alone atop the Metro standings, will hit the road next Monday for a doubleheader at Des Moines East as the young Bulldogs will play eight games next week with home doubleheaders against Des Moines Roosevelt and Southeast Polk leading into a pair of games one week from Saturday at the Prange Invitational in Ankeny.
"We're playing great baseball with our young kids. Next week is going to be a true sign of where we're at with eight tough games," Jaeger said. "The way we're playing right now, I feel like we can steal some wins and we're not just some team with a bunch of young guys. We're here to play."