Ottumwa High School baseball coach John Jaeger keeps an eye on the future.
That promise doesn’t take away from the sting of the present, however.
The Bulldogs were shut down by West Des Moines Valley pitcher Ben DeTaeye for six innings, and the fourth-seeded Tigers rolled to a 10-2 win over third-seeded Ottumwa in Friday’s Class 4A substate quarterfinal at Legion Memorial Field. Valley (16-18) will visit second seed Iowa City Liberty in Monday’s substate semifinal; the Lightning edged Cedar Rapids Washington 8-7 in nine innings.
“It just wasn’t our night, but that’s the way baseball goes sometimes,” said Jaeger, whose team finished 20-16 after replacing a dozen seniors and using 14 pitchers this year. “But these guys gave me 110 percent tonight, which is what I told them to do no matter what.”
The game couldn’t have started better, with second baseman Dominick Delehoy making a great play on the grass in right field, and the Bulldogs taking a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Logan Chickering.
The Tigers turned the game quickly in their favor. Three consecutive two-out doubles produced four of their five runs in the second inning as they took a 5-1 lead. Valley continued to add on, and the Bulldogs never found momentum again.
“We didn’t have our groove tonight,” Jaeger said.
Jaeger turned to Zach Bennett to start the game on the hill because “he was our best pitcher down the stretch. He got that big win at Roosevelt and had been throwing the ball well.” He didn’t make it out of the second inning, but all five runs Valley scored were unearned.
“He deserved to get the start, but it just didn’t go his way,” Jaeger said.
The Tigers tacked on a run in the third, another in the sixth, and then busted the game open with a three-run seventh as a balk, sacrifice fly and RBI single by Caleb Corbin made it a 10-1 game. Ottumwa scored in the bottom of the seventh on a balk.
The Bulldogs had a good opportunity to dent Valley’s lead in the third, but DeTaeye buckled down to get a pair of strikeouts after putting two runners on. Then, in the sixth, he struck out the side after two errors put Ottumwa runners on base.
The left-handed DeTaeye worked quickly on a night in which the temperature was well over 90 degrees. He struck out 12 and walked two, allowing just two hits.
“We hadn’t seen him this year, but you can scout a guy,” Jaeger said. “We just struggled at the plate tonight.”
Still, the season was hardly a loss. Ottumwa had to break in several new players on the fly, and it developed a deep pitching that that will be around for a few years. The Bulldogs will lose four seniors, including Bennett, but the experience gained this year will be pivotal next season and beyond.
“Our guys play the game the right way, and sometimes they don’t get that, but other coaches tell me that. That means a lot,” Jaeger said. “This team has grown so much, and we’re going to keep moving forward.
“Tonight Valley hit better and was better on the hill,” he said. “When you can win two of three facets, you have a pretty good chance to win the game.”
Chad Drury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @ChadDrury