College of the Ozarks Bobcat baseball team opened their 2020 season at home on Friday afternoon, facing a strong William Penn University (Iowa) squad. The Bobcats fell short in both games, losing each with a one-run differential at 3-2.
Game one opened with junior southpaw Sean Neal on the mound for the Bobcats. The Statesmen of William Penn came into the game with three wins under their belt and proceeded to tally two runs on four hits in the top of the first against Neal. In the bottom of the frame, the Bobcats’ lead-off hitter Zach Ford singled, and Kyle Abrahamson was hit by a pitch, but C of O had no luck pushing a runner across the plate. The bottom of the second found the Bobcats loading the bases with no outs, but three consecutive strike outs by WPU pitcher Chase Stratton shut down the Bobcat threat. WPU responded by mixing two hits with a walk, fielder’s choice, and sac fly to score their third run. Spencer Greene entered the game in the top of the fourth to relieve Neal and proceeded to pitch four scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out one. The Bobcats made some noise in the fifth, when the heart of the order—Max Pulley, Ryan Daggs, and Kolton Giefer hit back-to-back singles, driving in a run. However, a strikeout and caught-stealing at the plate thwarted a big inning. In the bottom of the seventh with two outs, Ryan Daggs smacked his first homerun of the season to bring the Cats within one run of the Statesmen, 3-2. Kolton Giefer followed with a single, and Lincoln Rasmussen was hit by a pitch, but a fly ball ended the game. The Bobcats tallied two runs on 11 hits, while William Penn scored three runs on eight hits. Daggs led the Bobcats at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance, including his homerun, and provided the Bobcats with some stellar plays at third base. Sean Neal took the loss, allowing three earned runs on five hits, walking two, and striking out one.
The second game of the day featured two solid performances by freshman pitchers for C of O. Rhett Hill (Fair Grove, Mo.) was an All-State selection his senior season. In his collegiate debut, Hill went 5 1/3 innings for the Bobcats, giving up two runs on four hits. He struck out four and walked two batters. He was followed by Michael White, a lefty from Poplar Bluff, Mo., who was also an All-State recipient. White pitched one and two-thirds innings, giving up no earned runs on one hit, striking out four and walking two. Unfortunately, the Bobcat bats were relatively silent, as they tallied only two hits. The first was a homerun from Westin Gann in the third to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead. Daggs belted his second homerun of the day in the sixth to tie up the game at 2 runs apiece and take his daily stats to 4-for-7. WPU scored one run in each of the final three innings to capture their second 3-2 victory of the day. Lionel Colon of the Statesmen recorded six innings, giving up two runs on two hits, striking out one, and walking one.
The two teams will return to Coach Bob Smith Field on Saturday for another doubleheader. First pitch on Saturday will take place at noon.