(photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
ORAN - Many kids dream of hitting a walk-off grand slam growing up.
Matt Bucher lived that dream on Wednesday.
Granted it wasn't of the game-winning variety, but it ended the game nonetheless by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule as the Oran Eagles cruised past Bernie 15-2 in five innings in a Class 1A Sectional game at Oran High School.
Oran (18-4) will play at Advance on Friday in the quarterfinals for the right to go to state. Game time has net yet been set.
The Eagles, ranked third in the state in Class 1A, scored 10 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to blow a close game wide open.
The grand slam capped a 3-4, five RBI day for Bucher, Oran's lone senior, playing in his final game at home.
"It couldn't have ended in a better way," said Oran head coach Mitch Wood. "It's his last game here and it's fitting that he did that. I'm glad to see it happen for him. He works hard and he deserves it. That's a good way to end your career at your hometown for sure."
With the Eagle offense dormant for most of the game, pitcher Ryne Wood was controlling the Bernie batters.
The junior picked up the complete game win, allowing two unearned runs off four hits. He struck out four and walked none.
"If you play defense behind him then he usually does a pretty good job," said Wood of his son. "If you don't play defense then he can look bad. But he usually throws strikes and makes them hit the ball. At this point in the season that's what you've got to do."
Oran's game-ending rally started with a two-run bomb from Trey Graviett to make the score 7-2.
Bernie (11-5) pitcher Daniel Edmonds followed that up by allowing a single and a walk.
When he was pulled, the Bernie pitching staff came unglued. Relief pitcher Waylon Owens hit all three batters he faced, plating two runs in the process.
Zach Dill then entered the game and managed to get two outs before loading the bases once again with a walk to Graviett.
Bucher followed with his dramatic finish.
"Edmonds showed signs that he was going to get into a groove but he never really did," said Bernie head coach Jon Grundy. "He threw a few good innings, but he never got into his groove like he could've. We kept it close for a while, but he got a little tired and a little flustered."
Bernie, which wrapped up its district on Monday, was already hurting with pitching depth entering Wednesday's game with Oran.
"We were a little short on pitching, we had our finals on Monday and we threw our No. 1 pitcher (Travis Blanchard) seven innings there," said Grundy. "Once we get past our top two, our pitching goes downhill pretty quick. But I'm proud of my guys. We had a heck of a season and we really overachieved this year."
Oran jumped ahead in the bottom of the first inning with three runs.
Wood and Bucher had an RBI-singles and Tyler Cookson added an RBI-double.
Bernie cut the lead to 3-1 in the second when Edmonds scored on a wild pitch.
Oran increased the lead to 5-1 on a two-run single by Joey Bickings.
Bernie plated its last run on an RBI-single by Anthony Young.
"We didn't hit the ball well at all today," said Grundy. "I knew we'd have to hit the ball well against them to have a chance. They're a very good ballteam and they have a good coach."
Oran was held scoreless in the third and fourth innings before busting out with 10 runs in the fifth.
"I think our kids came out a little lightly in the beginning," said Wood. "We went down and watched them play and they didn't play very well. So that might have had a little bit to do with it. But once we saw that they were capable of playing ball, like I knew they could, we got on top of it and started going."
Cookson went 2-3 with two RBIs and a run and Garrett Roslen went 2-2 with an RBI and two runs.
Bickings had three RBIs.
Edmonds took the loss for Bernie. He threw four-plus innings, allowing nine runs (eight earned) off nine hits with five strikeouts and three walks.
Dill went 2-2 for the Mules.