Win or lose, the Ottumwa High School baseball team had been in a stretch of difficult games in CIML crossover competition.
Then, along came winless Des Moines North in a return to the Metro.
The Bulldogs drew 17 walks in two games, and Colton McKinnon fired a one-hitter in the second game as Ottumwa cruised to 14-4 and 12-0 victories over the Polar Bears Monday at Legion Memorial Field. The first game needed five innings after the Polar Bears arrived at game time.
"When you play a team that's a lower caliber, it's easy to get caught up with not playing with any energy," Ottumwa coach John Jaeger said. "I really liked the energy we played with. It was good both games."
Ottumwa drew 10 walks in the opener against North, which had scored just seven runs in 11 games this season. However, a two-run single by Zach Burtch and a two-run triple by Mitch Wood in the second inning broke open the game as Ottumwa rallied for a 7-3 lead. A six-run third inning, which featured back-to-back bases-loaded walks to Wood and Logan Chickering, made it 13-3.
"When you're facing a pitcher the second time through, you adjust to the speed more than anything," Jaeger said. "We were able to wait on the ball more. We made better swings because we made the adjustments on the ball."
In both games, the Bulldogs (7-4, 4-0 Metro) were aggressive on the bases, whether or not the Polar Bears gave them an extra base on errors.
"When you face some of the top-notch teams we've been facing, those things don't always work out," Jaeger said. "But we want to be as aggressive as we can be, but we also know we can pull back if we need to. We were very good running the bases tonight."
The Bulldogs scored twice in the opening inning of the second game, then led 3-0 after two. A three-run third and a six-run fourth led to the rout. McKinnon singled in two runs in the fourth, while Brody Evans and Andrew Cole also added RBI singles. Cole drove in three runs in the contest.
"We hit it hard, but North played us deeper in the second game and took away some hits," Jaeger said. "They played hard, but played our top game tonight."
McKinnon was excellent on the mound. The only hit he allowed was a single to North's Daniel Sunga with two outs in the fourth. McKinnon struck out three and didn't walk anyone.
"He pitched to a lot of contact, and a lot of bad contact (on North's part)," Jaeger said. "He was consistently in the strike zone. Eleven pitches an inning is pretty good."
Adam Denniston took the mound for the first time this season in the first game. He lasted two innings, allowed three unearned runs and walked four to go with three strikeouts. Zach Bennett pitched three innings of relief.
"Adam hasn't had a pitching experience, but he worked through some jams," Jaeger said. "We got him some innings, because we're heading into the heart of our season now."
Ottumwa hosts Des Moines Lincoln for a Metro doubleheader Wednesday, then plays eight games in four days next week.
"We really wanted to kick this stretch off the right way," Jaeger said. "This was a great start tonight."
Chad Drury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @ChadDrury