Thanks to great pitching, a couple of timely breaks and one huge upset, the Ottumwa High baseball team only needs one more win to reach the state tournament–and they’ll play for that state berth at home.
The Bulldogs beat Indianola 2-0 at Legion Memorial Field on Friday in the first round of the Class 4A Substate 6 playoffs. The victory, coupled with Des Moines Hoover’s shocking 8-3 upset over #5 Des Moines East, gave Ottumwa a bye through Monday’s semifinal round and the right to host the substate championship game on Wednesday.
For Ottumwa, starting pitcher Steven Wilson lived up to his reputation as a big-game pitcher. The senior dubbed “Big Rig” by his teammates tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out four. Wilson got out of a 2nd-and-3rd, two-out jam in the first inning, and Indianola didn’t have two men on base at once again until there were two outs in the seventh, when Wilson induced a fielder’s choice grounder to end it.
Ottumwa only managed five hits against Indianola starter Austin Marchant, but they took advantage of two key errors by the Indians. In the third inning, with runners on the corners and two out, Curtis Schneckloth took off for second base, and as catcher Michael Harmison made his throw, Spencer Nelson took off for home. Indianola tried to have second baseman Cooper Royer cut off the throw so he could try to cut Nelson down at the plate, but Harmison’s initial toss got away for an error that allowed Nelson to score the first tally.
In the fifth inning, Chris Peden led off with a double and made it to third with two outs. Wilson hit what should have been an inning-ending grounder to third, but Jack Jensen was unable to field the ball cleanly, allowing Wilson to reach and Peden to score the important insurance run–although Wilson made sure on the mound that he did not need it.
As the second-seeded team in the bracket, the Bulldogs expected to play in the second round on Monday at home against either Des Moines Lincoln or West Des Moines Valley, but all that changed as the final score from the East-Hoover game began to filter through the large crowd at Legion Memorial Field. At 36-3, the Scarlets were considered to be one of the teams with a serious chance to win a state title. Hoover, on the other hand, came in with a 14-24 mark. The Huskies had won nine out of their last 14 games, but they had lost four times to East by an average of more than seven runs per game.
As the top seed in the substate bracket, East would have earned the second-round bye with a win. Since the Scarlets lost, that bye passes to the highest remaining seed, #2 Ottumwa. The Bulldogs were the only home team to win on Friday in Substate 6, as Valley went on the road to knock off Lincoln 9-0. Valley will host Hoover Monday night at 7pm, with the winner playing at Ottumwa at 7pm on Wednesday for a trip to the state tournament.