REPUBLIC — It surely helped Cooper Buvid when he made the move to the heart of ‘Cardinals Country’ here in the Ozarks two years ago that he grew up a Cardinals fan in his native Mississippi.
Like many of his Ozark teammates, Buvid’s favorite Cardinal is mainstay Yadier Molina.
“I’ve always watched Yadi and picked up on the things he is good at,” Buvid said.
Like Molina, Buvid is a right-handed hitting catcher who is rather proficient at going the opposite way at-bat.
Buvid went to right field for two of his four hits in Ozark’s 12-8 triumph over Republic on Tuesday. It was the COC opener for both teams.
“I get pitched away a lot, so that’s just what I have to do,” Buvid said about hitting to right field. “I have to find the ball and hit it that way.”
Buvid banged out a two-run double and an RBI-single while going 4-for-5.
“When I have runners in scoring position with less than two outs, I’m just thinking, ‘Hit the ball out of the infield so they can score,’” he said.
“Cooper had a day,” coach Justin Sundlie said. “He had a breakout day. I’m happy for him. When he gets hot, he’s really good. He was pressing earlier in the year. But today he seemed relaxed and aggressive. He had good takes and put good swings on some balls.”
Buvid’s breakout day nearly included what would have been a sensational catch. He chased down a foul ball 50-60 feet and tried to make a sliding catch in front of the Republic dugout, but the ball popped out of his glove.
"I heard everyone saying, ‘Buvid, look up.’ At first, I thought, ‘There’s no way,’” Buvid said. “I took off and tried to go get it and make the best play I can on it.”
“That was great effort,” Sundlie said. “He lost it briefly off the bat, but played it perfectly. He just keeps getting better back there. He hasn’t been catching that long. This is only his fourth year catching. He’s also a good corner infielder. He’s getting confident handling our pitching staff, blocking balls and throwing. And, he never doesn’t want to play. Double-headers, he wants both (games).”
Also enjoying a multi-hit game for Ozark (7-3) as part of its 15-hit attack was center fielder Devyn Wright, shortstop Kannon Little, second baseman Brady Dodd and third baseman Rhett Hayward.
Dodd had an RBI-double and an RBI-single, Little had an RBI-double and Hayward and pitcher Greydon Miller both had RBI-singles.
Left fielder Brock Sundlie doubled and was twice hit by a pitch.
Dodd, who also had two hits over the weekend against Owasso (Oklahoma), was inserted into the fifth spot in Ozark’s batting order for the first time.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to be in that spot,” Dodd said.
“He’s one of our hotter hitters, doesn’t strike out often and has been extremely competitive at the plate,” Justin Sundlie said. “You throw him in there and hope he can protect Buvid a little bit. You always worry when you move someone up in the lineup, you don’t know what is going to happen. He just went about his business and stuck with his game plan.”
A week ago at Kickapoo, Dodd was DH’d for. He didn’t let the temporary demotion get him down and has responded with his best at-bats of the season.
“I’m always keeping my head up. Body language is an important thing,” Dodd said. “Failing happens when you play baseball. Keeping your head up is a must.”
“Brady is seeing the ball real well. Everything he’s putting a swing on, he’s hitting it hard,” Sundlie said. “He’s simplified his approach and works constantly. Nobody outworks him. He’s constantly in the cage hitting. He’ll have a bad day just like anybody else. These days like today, you enjoy them.”
Sundlie was particularly pleased to see Ozark hitters adapt to the different speeds they saw from Republic’s starting and relief pitchers.
“Good hitting teams, whatever you throw out there, they’re going to be able to adjust to it — we did that today,” Sundlie said. “I could hear them in the dugout talking about making adjustments. It’s good to know they’re having an approach and taking it with them to the plate. They’re not just going up there swinging blind, like we were earlier this year.”
“We did a really good job of adjusting,” Buvid said. “Maybe it took us a couple batters, but we got there and figured everything out.I was impressed. We still have more to learn. But it was a really good game for us.”
Ozark led 6-0 in the third inning, before Republic made it a 6-5 ball game in the fourth. Ozark added two runs in the sixth and four in the seventh. Republic (6-7) scored three times in the seventh and stranded the bases loaded as the game ended.
Miller started on the mound and went 3.1 innings. Reliever Gage Depee worked the final 3.2 innings.
Ozark won its COC opener for the first time since 2017 and is seeking its 20th conference championship.
“That’s something we’re striving to achieve,” Dodd said. “Ozark has history. We want to be the next team.”
“That would mean a lot to us,” Buvid said. “But this is just beginning, we’ve got to find more wins.”
Ozark is at the Nike Nine Classic in Owasso later this week. The Tigers play Blanchard (Oklahoma) on Thursday, Tuttle (Oklahoma) and Verdigris (Oklahoma) on Friday and Life Prep (Kansas) on Saturday.
Ozark 12, Republic 8
Ozark 042 002 4 - 12
Republic 001 400 3 - 8
WP - Miller. LP - Beckner.