School has been out at Ottumwa High School for a month.
For its baseball team, it was very much in session Wednesday evening.
Logan Chickering hit a two-run home run to lead the Bulldogs to a 4-2 victory in the opener against West Des Moines Valley, but the Bulldogs struck out 15 times in the second game as the Tigers salvaged a CIML crossover split with a 7-5 win at Legion Memorial Field on the Bulldogs’ Senior Night.
“I think we learned a lot tonight about what we could potentially see, but I don’t think either team was trying to show too much,” said Ottumwa coach John Jaeger, whose team will host Valley in a Class 4A substate opener July 19. “It’s going to be a tough battle, and that’s kind of how those 3-4 (seeding) games are. It just comes down to who gets the home field.”
Chickering had a big night at the plate, cracking his homer over the right-field wall in the first inning of the opening game to give the Bulldogs (19-11) a 2-0 lead. Ottumwa added two more runs in the fifth as Peyton Johnson and Andrew Cole drew bases-loaded walks with two outs.
The offense was enough to back starting pitcher Adam Denniston, who threw six strong innings. The Bulldogs’ usual first-string catcher was making just his third start on the mound, but his first against an opponent the quality of Valley (14-18).
“He threw a great game. This was a test for him and he did a great job hitting spots,” Jaeger said. “His breaking ball wasn’t great, but he got a lot of easy ground balls. We turned more double plays tonight than we had all year. In both games, our pitchers did a good job pitching to contact.”
Valley got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning of the opener when Jake Auer hit a run-scoring single. After the Bulldogs built a 4-1 lead, the Tigers got their second run in the sixth on another RBI single by Auer.
Ottumwa led 2-1 early in the second game, but struggled to drive in runners against Valley sophomore Oliver Parizek. Parizek dominated, striking out 13 — 10 looking — over six innings. He threw 90 pitches, 71 for strikes, and struck out the side looking in the fourth fifth innings, the latter inning after the first two hitters reached base.
“All those called third strikes were frustrating. They can’t hit the ball if they don’t swing the bat,” Jaeger said. “We just didn’t hit it the other way like we needed to. (Parizek) threw a lot of curves and then fastballs. We knew what was coming, but he kept our kids off balance.”
Valley used a three-run third inning to take a 4-2 lead. Garrett Helm had an RBI double and Peyton Harryman added an RBI single with two outs. The Tigers took a comfortable lead with three more runs in the fifth as a steal of home and wild pitch brought in a pair of runs.
Ottumwa battled back in the seventh after a wild throw on a dropped third strike started a rally. Chickering doubled in Akian Jones and Brinden O’Leary, then Zach Bennett tripled on a ball that was lost in the lights. The Bulldogs had the tying run on base, but couldn’t finish the comeback.
“Our guys just have to learn to trust the process. If we make mistakes, it has to be at full speed. We can’t be tentative,” Jaeger said. “I thought what we did well tonight was hitting with runners in scoring position. It’s nice to see that come along.”
It was Senior Night for Jones, Zach Bennett, Zach Burtch and Jacob Brownlee. All four played a critical part in the doubleheader, and Brownlee worked the first three innings on the mound.
“We know we can play with anyone, because we’ve shown glimpses of it,” Jaeger said. “These were two well-played games by both teams.”
Ottumwa hosts Class 3A seventh-ranked Centerville in a junior varsity/varsity doubleheader Friday.
Chad Drury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @ChadDrury