College of the Ozark Bobcats battled Ecclesia College (Ark.) in a scheduled 9-inning contest on Friday afternoon and came away with a come-from-behind walk-off victory in the bottom of the tenth inning.
Ecclesia put the first run of the day on the board in their first at bat, with back-to-back singles and a one-out double. The Royals stranded two runners, as Bobcat starter Kyle Giefer struck out the final two batters. The Bobcats made some noise in the bottom of the first with singles by junior Max Pulley and sophomore Kolton Giefer, but C of O was unable to score.
The Bobcats tallied their first run of the day in the bottom of the second, when a walk and an error placed a runner on second, whom sophomore Cade Little drove in with a double to tie the game. The Royals wasted no time in responding, opening the top of the third with Austyn Hester singling to left and advancing to second on a bunt. A fly ball moved him to third, and a Bobcat error allowed Hester to score.
The pitchers seemed to settle into a groove, with neither team scoring until the bottom of the fifth, when sophomore Brent Shinkle struck out but took first base on a passed ball. Shinkle proceeded to steal second and Pulley singled to advance Shinkle to third. Junior Zach Ford followed with an infield RBI single to once again tie the score (2-2). The duo of Shinkle and Pulley struck again in the bottom of the seventh with singles to center, but no runs were forthcoming.
Ecclesia, following a one-out double, forced Giefer from the game in the top of the eighth. Unfortunately, the three Bobcat relievers that followed struggled to find control on the mound, allowing a combined three walks and two wild pitches, giving up two runs. In the top of the ninth, a Bobcat error followed by a Zack Espinosa home run to deep right center found the Bobcats trailing 6-2.
Things were looking bleak for the Bobcats, but Ecclesia returned a few favors. A couple Royal error, two walks, and a hit by pitch, combined with a Ford single and a pair of C of O sac flies, resulted in four Bobcat runs and another tie ballgame at the close of nine innings.
The Royals tacked on one more run in the top of the tenth to take the lead, and once more the Bobcats rallied. Shinkle opened the frame with a single to shallow right, and Pulley came through with his fourth hit and second RBI of the game by driving a double to left center to score the speedy Shinkle. Ford then stepped to the plate and hit a game-winning double deep down the right field line to score Pulley for the walk-off victory.
The Bobcats were led at the plate by Pulley (4-5, 2RBI, 1R, 2B, SB, Sac), Ford (4-6, 2RBI, 1R, 2SB), Kyle Abrahamson (1-2, 1RBI), and Shinkle (2-5, 3R, SB). Tad Jones collected the win for the Bobcats, and Austin Butler suffered the loss for the Royals. Of note, Bobcat starter Kyle Giefer went 7.1 innings for the Bobcats, allowing three runs on seven hits, with two walks and six strikeouts.
The Bobcats and Royals will return to Coach Bob Smith Field in Point Lookout, Mo. on Saturday for a doubleheader, with the first pitch beginning at noon.