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Griessel's pinch-hit RBI single earns Tigers long-awaited victory at Kickapoo


SPRINGFIELD — The Ozark junior with a unique name, unique look and classic swing distinguished himself even more Wednesday.

Truman Griessel put on quite a pinch-hitting performance, delivering a one-out, seventh-inning RBI single to bring home Caden McGehee for the game-winning run in the Tigers’ 5-4 triumph at Kickapoo.

It was Griessel’s second career varsity hit, after he recorded his first hit in Ozark’s season-opener last week at Jefferson City. The best he can remember, it was his first pinch-hit at any level.

“Zero,” Griessel replied when asked how much pinch-hitting experience he had. “A couple times last year it almost happened, but really none.”

Griessel started at second base against Jefferson City, but kept his mind involved in Wednesday’s proceedings, which was actually easy to do given the competitive, back-and-forth nature of the contest. 

“Sometimes it happens that you find out you're not playing, but you've got to be ready,” Griessel said. “My name got called and I lived up to the moment. I was wanting to enjoy the moment and be ready for anything. I kind of had that hero mentality, wanting to come through for my team and do something big for them.”

“Truman, he was never shook for not starting,” said teammate Hudson Roberts, who as a DH was alongside Griessel in the Tigers’ dugout. “I knew he would be ready for the opportunity. When his name was called, I was happy for him. I knew he had it.”

With Ozark and Kickapoo tied at 4 and McGehee on third base and one out, Griessel took a called first strike and fouled off a couple pitches, before ripping a grounder up the middle. Kickapoo’s shortstop made a diving stop of the ball, but to no avail. McGehee was safe at home and Griessel was safe at first.

“I was battling all of that at-bat, waiting for a pitch I could put in play,” Griessel said. “I got it and made the most of it. Our two-strike approach is we sit fast ball and adjust to off-speed. I was ready to swing at anything, fight it off and look for a pitch to drive somewhere. He threw me a couple off-speed pitches I was able to fight off. Then, he threw me a fast ball and I was able to hammer it. It was middle-in, I was able to stay through it and stay up the middle.”

Coach Justin Sundlie felt Griessel was the ideal choice to pinch-hit because of his penchant for making contact. The left-handed swinging Griessel does an exceptional job keeping his bat in the strike zone for an extended time.

“He has a very level swing,” Sundlie said. "He brings you quality at-bats.  He'll go gap to gap. He'll try to outsmart pitchers. If you've got a right-hander with a slider, he'll go up there and sit on it or sit on a fast ball. He shortened up with two strikes and tried to put the ball up the middle.”

Griessel is a bit of a rarity by wearing glasses even while he bats. They may look like sunglasses, but are actually prescription.

“Inside, they are clear and outside they transition to a darker shade,” he said. “They're basically like sun glasses. I can see fine. I just see a little bit of a darker tone out of these glasses. I had goggles when I was younger. But I like the glasses look, that's who I am.”

Ozark (2-0) received heroics from many corners while picking up its first win at Kickapoo since 2012. The Tigers were outscored 47-19 while dropping their previous six games on the Chiefs’ turf.

“I’m glad to be a part of breaking that streak with this team,” Roberts said. “It's always good to beat a Kickapoo or a Nixa. I'll never get sick of it. l Anytime we get a chance to do it, I'm hyped."

“This is a very hard place to win at,” Sundlie said. “I was proud of our guys for handling some tough spots and coming through in tight situations.”

Ozark gained leads of 3-1 and 4-3 only to see Kickapoo answer with a rally. The Chiefs were at times overwhelmed by Tigers starting pitching Cooper Pumphrey, but battled against him and tied things up at 3 shortly after his exit with one out in the fifth.

Ozark received a pair of hits, a run and an RBI from Roberts and an RBI-double and a run from catcher Gannon Miller.

McGehee reached first base in the seventh on an error and by deftly avoiding a tag at first base until he had his lead foot on the bag. He advanced on a pair of wild pitches.

Roberts is primarily DH’ing as he tends to a sprained left ankle he suffered three weeks ago in the Ozark basketball team’s triple-overtime District loss to Nixa.

“It was super swollen. I've been doing therapy on it," he said. "I was waiting to get the swelling down and it got down. I'm still recovering. We’re taking it slow right now. I'm picking things back up. Whatever I'm asked to do, I'm willing to do.”

Alex Nimmo moved from shortstop to the mound in the sixth inning to inherit a two-on, two-out jam. He certainly looked like Ozark’s next closer by keeping it a 4-4 game and setting the Chiefs down 1-2-3 in the seventh.

“The way coach has taught us is to be able to handle any situation and be ready for anything at any time,” Nimmo said. “I felt confident (and) had the same mentality as starting, attack and be aggressive.”

Ozark continues a trend of starting its season on a good note. The Tigers were 4-0 each of the past two seasons.

“This group has been confident from day one,” Robert said. “We know with the schedule we play, it's not going to be easy. We're ready for the challenge and opportunity and looking forward to competing.”

This shows the potential this team has,” Miller said. “I’m excited to get going with the rest of our season.”

“We've put in a lot of work and now it's exciting to play games as the season ramps up,” Griessel said. “Getting this win gives us big momentum as we move forward.”

Ozark 5, Kickapoo 4

Ozark       010 201 1 - 5 5 1

Kickapoo 100 021 0 - 4 7 4

WP - Nimmo. LP - Eaton.