OTTUMWA — Mitch Wood pulls no punches when talking about last year's postseason seeding for the Ottumwa baseball team.
"We feel like there's some unfinished business there," Wood said.
The Bulldogs took care of business on the field Thursday, rallying twice for a pair of CIML crossover wins over Fort Dodge. Wood capped a three-run rally in the seventh with a walk-off two-out RBI single to left for an 8-7 win in game one before a seven-run rally in the fourth lifted OHS to an 11-7 win over the Dodgers in the nightcap.
Ottumwa is now 16-7 overall this season with six straight wins, all earned this week. The Bulldogs host Mount Pleasant tonight looking for a seventh straight win and a 17-7 mark, all of which would give head coach John Jaeger plenty of positive arguments for a top two seed for Ottumwa when the coaches in Class 4A, Substate 7 meet this Sunday to determine the postseason pairings.
"If you look at our record, it should certainly have us in the conversation with Dowling (Catholic) for the top overall seed in the substate," Jaeger said. "I know Dowling (15-9 this season) has some wins over ranked teams that we don't necessarily have, but some coaches might look at how we're playing and say that we deserve it.
"It's like I told the kids going into the week. We control our destiny and we control what type of seed we're going to get. If we're going to get a high seed, we needed to take care of business. I think we've done a good job this week taking care of two conference opponents and beating a team in Fort Dodge that plays in a very tough part of the CIML."
The Dodgers, now 10-17, made the trip to Ottumwa after staying overnight in Pella following two losses at Marshalltown (4-3 and 5-1) on Wednesday. Fort Dodge came out swinging, collecting three straight hits to open game one with Mason Bockoven's RBI single plating Drake Miller.
The inning could have been even bigger if not for a great play made by Adam Denniston. After running back to catch a foul ball off the bat of Shane Halligan, Denniston raced back to the plate and tagged out Drew Callon for a rare unassisted double play for a catcher.
"I saw (Callon) was racing home and I saw no one was there, so I just broke for it," Denniston said. "I just dove and tried to save the run. We do practice those pop flies behind the plate, but the tag part of that is something you just react to in the moment."
The defensive gem kicked off a big night overall night for Denniston, who doubled in his first at-bat to kick off a three-run rally in the second inning of game one for the Bulldogs. The Ottumwa sophomore went 2-3 in each game, reaching base six times in eight plate appearances, and got Ottumwa's seventh-inning rally in the opener started by drawing a lead-off walk.
"Making that first-inning play really gave me more confidence when I got up to the plate," Denniston said. "I just kept trying to get on base. I just tried to get hits and give us a chance to score runs."
Trailing 7-5 entering the seventh, Denniston's lead-off walk was followed by Logan Chickering's third hit of the opener. After a sacrifice bunt by Zach Burtch, Dominick Delehoy's second hit drove in courtesy runner Zach Bennett to pull Ottumwa within a run before a sacrifice fly by Colton McKinnon drove in Andrew Cole with the tying run.
"It took the guys in front of me to get on and give me a chance to win the game," Wood said. "Adam drew a huge walk to get us going. Logan had another big hit. Zach moved them around. All those guys did their job in front of me."
Wood took a breaking ball for a strike to fall behind Fort Dodge relief pitcher Nelson Cone, moving the Dodgers within a strike of extra innings. On the next pitch, Wood drilled a ball over the head of left fielder Drake Miller allowing Delehoy to race home with the winning run.
"I was sitting on an off-speed pitch. He (Cone) gave a little shake, so I figured that would be what was coming," Wood said. "Instead, he threw an inside fastball. I was able to turn on it and got a good piece."
Fort Dodge again took an early lead in game two as an RBI triple by Brockoven helped the Dodgers go ahead 2-1 in the third. Denniston's third hit of the night opened up a big fourth inning that included a bases-clearing double from Jesue Jaime, who drove in five runs in the nightcap, as Ottumwa scored seven times to take a 9-2 lead.
"We've given ourselves our best chance to earn as many home games in the postseason as possible," Jaeger said. "These kids are playing some great baseball. They believe in each other and they don't give up. Looking back on it, I'm not all that surprised. I knew we lost a lot of guys from last year's team, but we've got a great group of kids coming up. We're going to be a winning ball club and, each time we play hard and win, it becomes closer to reality.
"I've never once doubted this team. They feel the confidence that I have in these kids and they feed off that."
Ottumwa 8, Fort Dodge 7
FD 000 000 0 — 7 12 1
OHS 000 000 0 — 8 13 2
Fort Dodge battery — Carson Peterson (3IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 3K, 3BB), Easton Cone (L, 0-1) (3 1/3IP, 7H, 5R, 5ER, 2K, 2BB) and Nelson Cone (1/3IP, H), Shane Halligan catching.
HR — Dylan Zimmerman.
Hits — Anthony Wagner 3-4, Jace Ulrich 2-3, Zimmerman 2-4, Drew Callon 1-2, Halligan 1-3, Mason Bockoven 1-4, Drake Miller 1-4, Peterson 1-4.
RBI — Zimmerman 2, Brockoven, Dre. Callon, Ulrich.
Runs — Drake Callon 2, Dre. Callon, Jerry Chada, Miller, Wagner Zimmerman.
Ottumwa battery — Jackson Grooms (2IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, HBP) and Brody Evans (W, 3-1) (5IP, 8H, 5R, 3ER, 3BB), Adam Denniston catching.
2B — Logan Chickering, Denniston.
3B — Dominick Delehoy.
Hits — Chickering 3-3, Mitch Wood 3-5, Denniston 2-3, Delehoy 2-4, Colton McKinnon 1-3, Trae Swartz 1-3, Evans 1-4.
RBI — Chickering 2, Delehoy 2, Wood 2, Zach Burtch, McKinnon.
Runs — Zach Bennett 3, Delehoy 2, Chickering, Andrew Cole, Swartz.
Ottumwa 8, Fort Dodge 2
FD 020 014 0 — 7 6 2
OHS 100 730 x — 11 10 2
Fort Dodge battery — Jace Ulrich (L, 0-1) (3 1/3IP, 5H, 7R, 5ER, 2K, 4BB), Nelson Cone (2/3IP, 3H, R, K, BB) and Shane Halligan (2IP, 2H, 3R, ER, K, 2BB), Dylan Zimmerman catching.
2B — Brycen Bell, Zimmerman.
3B — Mason Bockoven.
Hits — Halligan 2-2, Bell 1-3, Zimmerman 1-3, Drew Callen 1-4, Anthony Wagner 1-4.
RBI — Bell 3, Zimmerman 3, Bockoven.
Runs — Drake Miller 2, Bockoven, Drake Callen, Dre. Callen, Jerry Chada, Halligan.
Ottumwa battery — Andrew Cole (W, 2-1) (5 1/3IP, 4H, 6R, 4ER, K, 7BB, HBP), Peyton Johnson (2/3IP, 2H, R, ER, K) and Mitch Wood (IP, K), Adam Denniston catching.
2B — Jesus Jaime.
Hits — Denniston 2-3, Zach Bennett 2-4, Colton McKinnon 2-4, Dominick Delehoy 1-2, Zach Burtch 1-3, Jaime 1-4, Mitch Wood 1-4.
RBI — Jaime 5, Burtch, Logan Chickering, Delehoy, Denniston, Wood.
Runs — Delehoy 2, Jaime 2, McKinnon 2, Wood 2, Bennett, Johnson, Trae Swartz.