The fact Ozark and Nixa renewed their rivalry in a jamboree Monday didn’t change a thing in Blake Mozley’s approach at the plate. The Tigers’ lead-off hitter was still more than willing to take a walk.
Walks will remain a big part of Mozley’s m.o. this season.
“A jamboree is about getting ready for a game, but it’s just like a game,” Mozley said after walking once and flying out twice during Ozark’s 8-1 loss to Nixa and 2-0 setback against Rogersville. “I feel like you need to stay with your approach and play like you would in any other game.”
Mozley had 55 walks over the past two seasons. His 37 walks last season combined with a .417 batting mark led to a .617 on-base percentage.
“It helps the on-base percentage,” he said of the walks. “At the end of the day, I still want to hit. But I’m not going to swing at anything that’s not going to help me be productive at the plate. I’m not going to swing at anything the pitcher wants me to swing at.”
Mozley remained disciplined even while facing former teammates at Nixa. He was an Eagle throughout grade school and junior high before transferring to Ozark as a freshman.
No matter how many times Mozley has faced Nixa over the past three seasons, the matchup is a special one for him. He exchanged pleasantries with a couple of the Eagles after the jamboree.
“It was weird not being in the dugout with them (initially),” Mozley said. “But as time has went on, Ozark is my home. They’re all my good friends (at Nixa). I know everyone on the team. It helps me that I know what they do and how they play. If a guy is a pull hitter, I can tell the infield that.”
Nixa also picked up a 4-0 victory against Rogersville, as left-handed ace Isaac Mitchell threw a scoreless inning.
“I wish I could have thrown against Ozark, but it’s about getting reps today,” Mitchell said.
Catcher Joe Reid liked what he saw out of his teammates, reaffirming his optimism for the season.
“We look pretty good,” Reid said. “We’re definitely strong defensively. We have a lot of pitching depth. The only thing we’re going to need to find and establish the first couple of weeks is our offense, see who is going to be in the lineup everyday. At pretty much every position we have two or three guys who can play.”
Nixa debuts March 16 at Republic.
Ozark coach Mike Essick hopes the jamboree got his players’ attention. The Tigers totaled only three hits and yielded nine walks. Catcher Carson Shaver’s triple was their lone extra-base hit
“Thank goodness that’s why it’s called a jamboree,” Essick said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to shore some things up.”
All three teams threw an assortment of pitchers, usually opting for a new hurler each inning. Likewise, the teams substituted position players freely and penciled in up to 13 players in their lineup.
“We’ve got a lot of comparable guys. That’s why we want to give everyone an opportunity as we move forward,” Essick said. “We have six or seven spots in the lineup up for grabs. If somebody will step up and compete and hit balls hard, that’s what we’re looking for. You either play your way in or play your way out.
“That’s what this is for, show us what you can do with your opportunity. We’ll start settling in on some guys and see where it goes from there.”
Ozark opens Friday at U.S. Baseball Park against Lawrence Free State (Kansas) at 12:30 p.m. and will meet Poplar Bluff afterward.