(Photo by Lance Hanlin, Staff)
"We would like to go back to the final four," said Oran head coach Mitch Wood. "We are taking things one game at a time right now."
Oran will get their shot to move on today when they take on North Pemiscot's Mustangs in the sectionals of Class 1 at 4 p.m.
Oran qualified for the playoffs by winning the Class 1, District 2 championship last week. After receiving a bye in the first round of action, the Eagles smoked Bernie for 12 unanswered runs including a walk-off homer from Ryne Wood in round two.
In Thursday's championship, Oran walked away with a 3-1 win over Bell City.
A Joey Bickings two-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth lifted the Eagles to the district championship, but, "We didn't play a real good game in the championship," said Wood.
"There have been some good teams around lately that have gotten beat because they didn't play their best game and we feel good about getting that win, although we didn't play our best. We have, however, been working on a few things since that tournament," said Wood.
One of the aspects of their game that Coach Wood mentioned was the amount of fly ball outs that Oran made in the district tournament.
"We have been working on our hitting a lot lately, especially hitting line drives," said Wood. "We just haven't gotten anything to fall into the right places."
Trey Graviett (7-1) is the likely Oran starter for today's game. In his last outing, the district championship, he went the distance while only allowing one earned run on one hit.
As Coach Wood put it, it is just as much as a defensive move as any.
"I think our defense is at our best when Graviett is on the mound," said Wood. "Since it doesn't change much, we are also really strong on defense when (Tyler) Nelson is on the mound."
Coach Wood also said that he is expecting three of his big hitters to step up.
"I am expecting Ryne (Wood), who is leading the team in hitting; Nathan Seyer, who is right behind him; and Joey Bickings to really get things going for us," he said. "Seyer has a lot of pop in his bat and has done well starting things off for us. Bickings is one of those guys that is becoming a clutch hitter for us. He started the year off slowly, but he has gotten things going here lately."
Wood was quick to note that, "All year we have had different guys step up at different times, that's why we have won as many games as we have. Just because our first six hitters are all seniors, it doesn't mean that its going to be one of them to pick up the slack. Last week it was Trey with a one-hitter and that was really big for us."
North Pemiscot's Ronnie Lewallan, on the other hand, is approaching today's match up a little differently.
"We are still learning how to play fundamental baseball," he said. "With them being the number one team in the state, we are looking to use this game as a measuring stick to see where we are and where we should be."
Even though he is a first year coach, Lewallan said, "...I've had some of these boys in Junior Legion before and I hope we can set the tone early. We are such a young team that we are not going to knock the ball out of the yard a lot, but we are going to do a lot of bunting and running."
Young seems to be a key word for North Pemiscot, as barely half of their starters are upperclassmen.
"So far our underclassman have been tremendous," said Lewallan. "I think this situation will really help them in the years to come. I just hope we play well and don't beat ourselves."
Although North Pemiscot (13-7) has not decided on a starting pitcher, Coach Lewallan said that he knows who will likely not start. Sophomore slinger Brandon Massey, who struck 10 and only allowed four hits in the second round of the district for the Mustangs, will be behind the plate.
"Massey has come a long way for us this year," said Lewallan, "but he will start behind the plate. He may work in relief though if we need him."
B.J. Flippo got the win in the championship game for North Pemiscot as he tossed three innings of shutout ball to collect the 5-4 win.
In the victory, the Mustangs came back from a 4-2 deficit by scoring one run in the fifth, sixth, and seventh.
One of the main issues that has plagued the Mustangs all season is trust.
"Our young guys have really jumped on and gotten excited about playing," said coach Lewallan, "but these seniors have had a different coach every year. I understand where they are. I just hope the excitement that our young guys have can keep going through this season and into next season."
Coach Lewallan also talked about what he would like for his guys to take away from the game.
"What ever happens, I want us to try to keep from having big innings. We want to contain them and put the pressure on in the late innings. To do that though, we will have to play as a team and not beat ourselves. I believe that if we play well, we have a shot."