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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016

Oran advances to Final Four

Sunday, May 26, 2002

ADVANCE - To some, it takes a lifetime to make a Final Four appearance.

To the Oran Eagles baseball team, three years may have seemed like a lifetime.

The Eagles reached the Class 1A state semifinals for the first time since 1999 on Friday with an 11-1, six-inning victory against Advance.

Oran will play on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Simmons Field in Columbia against the winner of the Marion C. Early-Sparta game.

"We've been expecting this bunch to do something the last couple of years -- we're tickled to death to go there," said Oran head coach Mitch Wood.

For the second game in a row, Oran ended the game by 10-run rule with a walk-off home run, this time by Trey Graviett, who parked a three-run bomb over the left centerfield fence.

"Yeah they're making a habit out of it," said Wood of the game-ending home runs. "I hope they continue to make a habit out of it for two more games."

Oran (19-4), ranked No. 3 in the state, was never threatened by the Hornets as they built a 4-0 lead in the first inning.

They continued to pad the lead with a run in the second and fourth innings and two runs in the fifth.

But the real story of Friday's game was the pitching of Graviett, who struck out 11 and walked just two in his six innings. The Hornets could muster just four hits on the afternoon.

Graviett also went 3-4 with four RBIs and three runs scored.

"When Trey's on, he throws well, we all know that," said Wood. "The difference between him and Ryno (Ryne Wood) is he'll strike people out with men on base. Where Ryno you have to play defense behind him. He's cut down on his walks and that's the key to the ballgame for him."

Advance (7-7) never could get anything going -- only three times did runners reach scoring position.

"Graviett looked better than when we faced him earlier," said Advance head coach Jim Below. " Oran's a good team, they swing the bats and they come to play. All in all, I wouldn't say we'd have to play a perfect game, but we'd have to play darn good game to win this."

But the Hornets didn't play well.

Errors and bad decisions contributed to the Eagles' runs, particularly in the tone-setting first inning.

On one play with the score still 0-0, Hornet third baseman Justin Gibson fielded a ground ball, attempted to tag Wood, but missed, and then threw the ball away at first base.

The error allowed Wood to score and opened the floodgates the rest of the inning.

"We took advantage of their mistakes, but good teams I feel like do those things," said Wood. "When they give you a chance to score you need to score. I thought our bunch did a real good job of taking advantage of it and getting key hits."

Matt Bucher provided a key hit in the first when he hit a ball to centerfield for an apparent single, but the centerfielder dove and missed, allowing another run to score and Bucher to end up on third with a triple.

Advance starter Eric O'Hare pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs (five earned) off five hits. He walked seven and struck out five in taking the loss.

Aaron Cantrell pitched one inning of relief, allowing three runs and three hits.

"Eric threw well," said Below. "His ball was moving and he was juiced up to pitch and he was really wanting this game. He didn't have his best stuff today, but he's proven to be our No. 1 pitcher all year."

Advance got its lone run in the top of sixth off an RBI-single by Cantrell.

Advance made it to the quarterfinals despite losing several games from rainouts.

"What's tough about (making it this far) is losing," said Below. "But this team has done something that no other team has done in this town and I'm proud of that. We had 21 rainouts but we still hung in there and fought."