It’s baseball season!
After just less than a year without baseball, the College of the Ozarks Bobcats wondered when they might start their 2021 season. Weather had caused several cancelations and opening day had been delayed several times already. Sunday afternoon the question surfaced again as Bob Smith Field was still covered with a thick blanket of snow. The question of opening day, however, was not the only thing that surfaced. The meaning of such words as determination, effort, desire, and teamwork also surfaced. The Bobcat Baseball team and coaches brought these terms to the surface and demonstrated the meaning. “The game must go on!” seemed to echo though the stadium as the Bobcats set the mission of opening their season on Monday as the top priority. With shovels in hand and wheelbarrows in tow, the Bobcats began shoveling and hauling. What seemed like an impossible task in the early afternoon, later became one that was finished. The team and coaches had cleared the entire playing surface to make sure it was ready for Monday’s games. By game time Monday, there was no evidence of snow on the field; only piles outside the fence.
The Baseball Bobcats were set to open the season hosting a three-team series with Evangel University and Texas A & M – Texarkana. The two visiting teams would start the day facing off and Texas A & M – Texarkana would defeat Evangel in a 7-6 affair.
Game two of the day featured College of the Ozarks taking on Evangel. Ryan Daggs took the mound to start the 2021 campaign for the Bobcats. Excitement was in the air as the Bobcats took the field and Daggs made quick work of the Crusaders, striking out the first two batters he faced and getting a fly ball to right for the final out. The Bobcats wasted no time hitting the scoreboard as sophomore infielder, Neco Lopez launched a solo blast over the left centerfield fence. That was all the Bobcats could push across as a Ryan Daggs single resulted in the first stranded baserunner of the afternoon. Daggs struck out two more Crusaders in the second inning and induced a ground ball to second for the final out. It looked as though the Bobcats would add more tallies when Chandler Tidwell led off the second with a double that bounced over the right-center field fence. Tidwell, however, was left stranded and the Bobcats would head back to the field. Evangel would turn up the offense in the third as Grant Kosanke was safe on an error. The Crusaders would follow that with a bunt single, a Jordan Yates rbi base hit, a hit by pitch, and a sacrifice fly. Heading into the bottom of the third, Evangel had scored two with the Bobcats coming up and it was 2-1 Crusaders. The Bobcats would be retired in the third with Ryan Daggs left on base after a two out walk. On the mound, Daggs retired the three Crusaders he faced in the fourth, but the Bobcats went down in order as well. The 5th inning proved to be a tough one for the Bobcats. Defensively the strike zone became elusive and the Crusaders took advantage. Scoring two runs on four walks and an error, Evangel opened up a 4-1 lead. C of O went down quietly in the fifth with a single by Zach Ford, two strike outs and a ground out to short. Things seemed to unravel for the Bobcats in the sixth inning as Evangel capitalized on four walks, three hits, and an error to add four more runs. Heading to the bottom of the sixth, it was 8-1 and not looking good for the Bobcats. Time was running out and the Bobcats needed runs. Daggs, hit a deep flyball to right for the first out of the sixth. Dawson Nimmo singled up the middle and Lincoln Rasmussen reached on a walk. Chandler Tidwell stepped to the plate and powered a line drive over the right field fence. Suddenly the Bobcats had new life and the lead was cut to 8-4. The next two batters were retired, and the Bobcats were down to their final three outs. The Crusaders were shut down in order in the top of the seventh and the Bobcats needed more runs. Zack Ford led off the seventh with a walk. Neco Lopez followed with a double to center and Max Pulley hit a sacrifice fly to right. The Crusaders struck out the next Bobcats and with two outs, Spencer Greene stepped in as a pinch hitter. In dramatic fashion, Greene drilled a deep fly ball toward the foul pole in the left field corner. The ball continued to carry, and the only question would be…fair or foul. That question was answered quickly as the ball left the yard on the fair side of the pole and it was now 8-7 Evangel. The Bobcats had pulled to within one run, but the next batter was retired, and the game would end with a score of 8-7.
Game two for the Bobcats would have them facing the Eagles of Texas A & M – Texarkana with Neco Lopez on the mound. Coming off an earlier win over the Crusaders, the Eagles were ready to take on the home team. After a base hit and line drive for a double play looked to shut the Eagles down early, the Bobcats gave up two walks, a hit by pitch, and a balk to allow a run to cross. The Bobcats would go quietly in their half of the first and Lopez would set the eagles down in order in the second. The Bobcats turned up the offensive heat in the second and scored three runs on a catcher’s interference call, two walks and a Neco Lopez single to center. A & M would battle back and score three of their own in the fourth and one in the fifth. The Bobcats went one for their next eight with the only hit being a Ryan Daggs double to left in the fifth. The Eagles would add one more run to the board in the fifth and the score was 8-3 heading to the seventh. With the Eagles retired in the seventh, the Bobcats were down to their final three outs. Zack Ford led off with a single followed by a Neco Lopez infield hit. Max Pulley would draw a walk to load the bases for Ryan Daggs. A Daggs sacrifice fly to center would add a Bobcat run and make it 8-4. Spencer Greene would ground out to short to drive in another run but that’s all the Bobcats could get as they fell 8-5 to the Eagles.
The Bobcats will be back in action at 1:00 and 3:00 Tuesday to continue to the two day series against Evangel and Texas A & M – Texarkana.