Prep baseball: Ottumwa catches thrilling win over No. 10 Waukee (2024)

OTTUMWA — If it takes place later this month at Veterans Memorial Stadium, it will go down as an instant state baseball tournament classic.

If it was a preview of the Class 4A state baseball postseason, the ride to Cedar Rapids is going to be a thrilling one.

For over two hours on Monday, 10th-ranked Waukee and Ottumwa battled it out in a game that required several clutch plays, clutch pitches and one clutch hit to determine a winner. That clutch hit came off the bat of Dawson Weller, who lined a one-out pitch back up the middle with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth for a walk-off single that lifted the Bulldogs to a hard-earned 1-0 win over the Warriors in the opening game of a varsity doubleheader at John Hart Stadium.

"This was definitely a game that we needed as we move forward," Ottumwa head baseball coach John Jaeger said. "Nothing against the competition we've faced, but it's not the caliber of a team like Waukee. That's the caliber of team we're going to be seeing when we begin to make our run at qualifying for state."

Waukee was able to salvage a split in game two, connecting on three hits with two outs in the opening inning to bring in four runs on the way to a 7-0 win over the Bulldogs. Side-arm sophom*ore pitcher Brayden Moore stymied Ottumwa over six innings, allowing just four hits while striking out nine batters including four in a row after the Bulldogs loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth.

"We had more errors (four) than we would have liked. It could have easily been a 3-0 or 4-0 type of game," Jaeger said. "Hats off to (Moore). It was a different angle than what we've seen from any pitcher we've faced this year.

"We competed. There are still things we need to work on and clean up, but overall I was happy with our performance in the doubleheader."

Tucker Long continued to show off his ability to lead the Bulldogs from the mound, matching Waukee senior Nate Danielson as both pitchers finished the opening game with seven-inning shutouts. Long initially got a big boost from his defense as Javen Rominger robbed Hunter Reed of a potential game-opening extra-base hit with a running catch in center field.

After hitting Gavin de Jesus, Long began to get into a groove striking out the next eight Warrior batters. The Ottumwa sophom*ore finished the game with 14 strikeouts before handing the ball off to Mason Gravett after throwing 108 total pitches, working around five hits, two hit batters and two Ottumwa fielding errors to keep Waukee off the scoreboard.

"It was a lot of fun being in that kind of pitching duel," Long said. "I knew I had to step it up a little more on the mound. The change-up was really on. The fastball was on. The slider was on. It was a really good. I was happy with how everything went."

Long worked quickly throughout his run of eight straight strikeouts, which was finally broken up when de Jesus connected on a two-out single in the third inning. The energetic Long quickly put away Grant Sorenson, forcing an inning-ending groundout to Weller at third base to keep the game scoreless.

"I was pretty full of caffeine in the pregame, so I was pretty dialed in," Long joked. "Shout out to that coconut-berry Red Bull. That's the secret formula, but I'm always pretty excited to jump out there on the mound."

More than just strikeouts were required to keep Waukee from putting that much sought-after first run on the board in game one. Carter Johnson and Braeden Billings opened the fourth inning with bunt singles and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Drew Sabatino.

After striking out Zack Turpin for the second out, Long nearly snagged a ground ball off the bat of Michael Ogles. Matthew Mitchell quickly fired the slow-hit grounder at second base to Brayden Larkin, who made the clutch field and stretch to record the final out to keep the game scoreless.

"Those big plays mean a lot," Long said. "I love being able to produce for this team, but it's always great knowing my guys have my back when they make plays like that behind me."

Johnson would have the best chance to score in regulation after legging out a double to open the sixth inning against Long. Billings singled to shallow right, moving Johnson to third with no outs.

Long struck out Sabatino to get the first out of the inning, but Turpin attempted to squeeze in Johnson putting down a bunt in front of the mound. Long raced towards the plate, firing a throw on the move to Cameron Manary who got the tag on Johnson just before his foot touched home plate again keeping Waukee off the scoreboard.

"I knew about halfway to the ball I had a pretty good chance of getting (Johnson)," Long said. "I got myself around and gave Cameron a good toss to his chest. He was able to drop it down and make the tag. It was a big play by him. That gives you an extra boost when you can make a play like that."

Long finished out the game striking out four of the next five Waukee batters, working around a pair of errors in the seventh that allowed Reed to reach third base. Mason Gravett came on in the eighth to retire Waukee in order, getting Johns and Billings to fly out to Rominger in deep center before striking out Sabatino for the final out.

"That's a big spot that we put Mason in," Jaeger said. "That's a tough spot for a freshman to come in to, but he kept his composure and never got rattled. We're going to need that down the stretch."

Waukee (24-14) nearly sent the game into the ninth after a Javen Rominger connected on a one-out single. Manary hit a ground ball to short that could have been an inning-ending double play, but instead got by Sorenson at short allowing Rominger to reach third with one out.

With runners at the corners and the game on the line, Quinn Larsen was given an intentional walk loading the bases for Weller. Having already connected on the first of Ottumwa's two hits in the first seven innings, Weller found a gap through the infield to line his second hit through allowing Rominger to score the only run of a thrilling opener.

"I know I've been in a slump lately and I've been struggling to get hits, but it meant something to see them put Quinn on in front of me," Weller said. "I started seeing the ball well once I got that first hit.

"I was trying to hit something that's middle to low so I can get something in the air and maybe get Javen home on a sacrifice fly if anything and I happened to get something I could line back up the middle. That's probably one of my biggest hits this season. Waukee is a great team. It's a game we really wanted to win."

Ottumwa (26-8) heads to Fort Madison on Wednesday.

Prep baseball: Ottumwa catches thrilling win over No. 10 Waukee (2024)
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