Columbia, Missouri - Battling the effects of weather and other obstacles, the College of the Ozarks Bobcat Baseball team found themselves boarding a bus to Columbia over the weekend, instead of playing at Coach Bob Smith Field as originally scheduled. The Bobcats had not had an outdoor practice in over a week as the latest winter weather dumped a heavy layer of sleet on the baseball complex. With hopes that a slight rise in temperatures and shifting the weekend series to Saturday/Sunday would allow the field conditions to improve, the Bobcats grabbed the shovels and went to work. It didn’t take long however, for Coach Neale Richardson and his crew to realize a game-ready field was not going to be possible. Strangely enough, Columbia, Missouri hadn’t received near the precipitation as the Branson area, so the solution quickly became a change in location.
With the decision to travel now made, the Bobcats could turn their focus to baseball. Facing the obstacle of more than a week without practice outdoors, the Bobcats knew they would have their hands full with the Cougars of Columbia College. Add in the fact that the Cougars were an NAIA top 20 team a year ago, and the challenges of opening weekend were very evident. Making no excuses and determined to get the season off to a solid start, the Bobcats stepped on the field ready to compete.
C of O vs Columbia College – Saturday, February 4 – Game 1
Chuck Hill got things started early with a leadoff single, but the offense was unable to move him along. Tyler Buchanan took the mound for the Bobcats and the potent Cougar offense wasted no time coming to life. A Bobcat miscue and a trio of hits allowed three runs to cross for the Cougars, and the Bobcats were in an early hole. Rhett hill led off the second with a drive over the left field wall and the Bobcats were on the board. That would be all the offense in the inning and the Cougars were headed to the plate. Columbia College gathered one hit and one more run in the second and the Bobcats now trailed 4-1. The Cats went down in order in their half of the third, but the Cougars erupted for three more runs to sprint out to a 7-1 lead. Weston Whiteside came on in relief for the Bobcats and secured the final out of the third inning. The Bobcat bats remained silent in the top of the fourth and Columbia continue to add to their run total. Three hits led to 2 more Cougar runs and the Bobcats were in trouble. The Cougars would add one run in each of the two subsequent innings, but the Bobcat offense was limited to a Brody Baumann walk in the sixth. A Hunter Lewis walk, followed by a Caden Kauffman double set the stage for a two RBI double off the bat of Aaron Fisher. That was all the runs the Bobcats could push across in the seventh and the Cougars took game one, 11-3.
Chuck Hill, Rhett Hill (HR), Caden Kauffman (2B), and Aaron Fisher (2B, 2 RBI) garnered hits for the Bobcats.
C of O vs Columbia College – Saturday, February 4 – Game 2
Looking to bounce back from the game one defeat, the Bobcats came out swinging in the opening frame of game two. Ryan Daggs started the offense reaching on a hit by pitch. He was forced out on a Spencer Greene fielder’s choice and Rhett Hill walked. Trey Riley smashed a double to put the Bobcats on the board as Greene crossed the plate. With two runners on, Caleb Johnson delivered a three-run blast, and the Bobcats took the early 4-0 lead. Rhett Hill went to the bump for the Bobcats and Columbia wasted very little time in bouncing back. A three-run homer cut the Bobcat lead to 4-3 and a few hitters later, another three-run blast gave the Cougars the 6-4 lead. The table had quickly turned on the Bobcats as game moved to the second inning. A Chuck Hill, two-out double was the only offense for the Bobcats in the second and Rhett Hill shut the Cougars down in their half. Both teams were silent in the third inning and a Titus Atkins double was all the Bobcats could do in the fourth. After a quick out in the bottom of the fourth, the Cougar bats heated up again and a pair of homers added three runs to the total. Colin Pyatt came on to pitch in relief and finished off the inning. The Bobcats went three up-three down in the fifth, but the Cougars were not as quiet. Another pair of runs increased the Bobcat deficit to 11-4. Caleb Johnson ripped a two out single in the sixth and Blake Hultgren walked but the Bobcats were unable to push either runner across the plate. The Cougars added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth and the Bobcats had just three more outs to work with. Titus Atkins grabbed his second hit of the game with a leadoff single and Brody Baumann walked. The next three Bobcats were retired, and the Cougars took game two, 14-4.
Chuck Hill, Trey Riley and Titus Atkins recorded extra-base hits along with Caleb Johnson’s first homer of the season. Atkins recorded his first multi-hit game with a single to go with his double, but the offense was unable to keep pace with the Cougars.
C of O vs Columbia College – Sunday, February 5 – Game 3
The reduced opportunity for outdoor practices leading up to the series had been evident in the opening two games and the Bobcats needed to turn the tide. Facing a talented top tier NAIA team, the Bobcats were looking to compete and hopefully jump into the win column.
The top of the first was uneventful for the Bobcats as a two out walk to Rhett Hill was the extent of the offense. With Spencer Greene on the mound, Columbia came out hot, once again, and threw four runs on the board. Trey Riley started the second inning with a single and Brody Baumann walked. The Cats were unable to advance the runners and the Cougars came up in the bottom of the second holding a 4-0 lead. A pair of singles, a double, triple, and a Bobcat miscue led to four more crossing the plate for the Cougars and C of O was in a big hole early. The Bobcats were struggling to string hits together and a Ryan Daggs single was all the offence in the top of the third. Four seemed to be the magic number as the Cougars added four more in the third and Joe Lee made his first appearance of the season on the mound. The Bobcats found some life in the top of the fourth when Spencer Greene drilled a home run over the wall to lead things off and get the Bobcats on the board. Trey Riley singled, and Caleb Johnson singled to move Riley to third. Brody Baumann picked up an RBI with a sacrifice fly to left and the game moved to the bottom half, 12-2 Cougars. Devin McCullough pitched two scoreless innings, but the Bobcats were unable to capitalize and add to their run total. The bats came back to life in the sixth when Trey Riley walked and a ground out and balk moved him to third. Zane Kelley walked to set up a Blake Hultgren two-RBI triple to right center. With Jake Davis coming on in relief, and not to be outdone, the Cougars responded in the bottom of the inning with five more tallies. The Bobcats had a long way to go and only three more outs to play with. Daggs and Atkins singled in the seventh but that was all the Bobcats could muster and the Cougars took game three of the series, 17-4.
Ryan Daggs, Trey Riley, and Blake Hultgren (3B, 2 RBI) each recorded two hit each and Titus Atkins, Spencer Greene (HR), and Caleb Johnson each had one hit. Brody Baumann recorded one RBI with his sacrifice fly.
C of O vs Columbia College – Sunday, February 5 – Game 4
With one more opportunity to bounce back and end the weekend on a positive note, the Bobcats were set to send Colin Pyatt to the mound. A good offensive start is always good for a pitcher and the Bobcats jumped on the board again in the first inning. Chuck Hill doubled to lead off the inning and Caleb Johnson was hit by a pitch. A passed ball advanced the runners to second and third and a Spencer Green ground ball scored Hill. That was all the Bobcats could get but Pyatt went to the bump leading 1-0. The Cougars were determined to keep the momentum and a leadoff double turned into a run to tie the score heading to the second. Rhett Hill singled in the second but there was no other offense to be found. Pyatt set the Cougars down in order in the bottom half and the Bobcat bats came alive again in the third. Seth Stamps led off with a double and Chuck Hill singled to put runners on the corners. Caleb Johnson picked up an RBI with a single and Ryan Daggs followed with a single to advance the runners. A One out Trey Riley single drove in two runs and the Bobcat lead was 4-1. The next two batters were retired and Pyatt went back to work. Another three up-three down inning gave this contest a different feel than the previous three. A Seth Stamps walk was all the offense for the Cats in the fourth and the Cougars were able to pick up a run to cut the lead to 4-2. Ryan Daggs provided some fireworks to lead off the fifth inning with a blast over the wall and Spencer Greene followed with a single. Unfortunately, the next three batters were retired, and the lead remained 5-2 heading to the bottom half. Pyatt continued his solid outing and another 1-2-3 inning ws the result. The Bobcats went down in order in the sixth and Pyatt pitched around a double in the Cougar half to hold the score at 5-2heading to the final frame. The Bobcats went quietly in their half and Ryan Daggs came on in relief to pitch the final inning. Things got interesting with a leadoff walk and a single. A wild pitch moved runners to second and third, and the tying run was at the plate. A walk loaded the bases and things began to intensify. A ground ball in the hole between first and second became a tough play and the Bobcat defense had to do everything correctly to get the out. A heads-up play by Daggs to cover the bag, and receive the throw from second baseman Caleb Johnson, recorded the first out of the inning as a Cougar run crossed the plate. With the winning run now at the plate, Daggs and the Bobcats had to clamp down. A walk loaded the bases, and the double play ball was the goal fo the Bobcat pitcher. Just as the doctor ordered, a ground ball up the middle was fielded by Blake Hultgren and a touch of the bag was followed by a perfect strike to first and the game came to an end. The Bobcats had salvaged the final game behind a great performance on the mound by Pyatt and timely hitting by the Bobcats.
Chuck Hill (2B) and Ryan Daggs (HR) led the offense with a pair of hits each, Caleb Johnson, Trey Riley, Rhett Hill, Seth Stamps (2B), and Spencer Green added one hit each. Colin Pyatt recorded the win on the mound going six innings, allowing 2 runs on four hits, striking out four and issuing no walks.
The performance of Pyatt in both appearances over the weekend earned him Central Southwest Baseball Conference Pitcher of the Week honors.
The Bobcats are scheduled to be back in action Friday and Saturday at home against Randall University in 12:00 starts both days.