Advance (18-2), avenging a Class 1, District 2 final loss to Oran last season, had to survive a last-inning scare by the Eagles to win its first championship since 2002.
"These kids have done this all year," said Advance's second-year coach Bob Moses, savoring his first district crown. "They just want to win."
But the proud Eagles, perennial state playoff competitors, were not about to go down without a fight.
In the frenetic seventh, trailing 2-1, Oran's Chase Seyer led off the inning with a double down the first-base line, putting the potential game-tying run in scoring position. With one out, Joey Williams, who went 3-for-3, blooped a single to left field.
Seyer, after hesitating to see if the ball would be caught, got a late jump and was caught in a rundown between third and home. He was eventually tagged out at third base by Trent Moses.
Then the freshman Tyler Beardslee, pinch-running for Williams, was caught in no-man's land between second and third and tagged out by Moses for the final out.
"You just hate to lose like that," said Oran coach Mitch Wood, seeking his ninth district title in 13 years at the helm. "If we would have not been in the ballgame, the way we played, mentally, it would have been pretty easy to take because I really didn't think we deserved to win. But we were right there and all we've got to do is make a couple of plays."
Early on, the game had evolved into a pitchers' duel between two competitive hurlers, Oran lefty Seyer and Advance right-hander Jeremy Limbaugh.
Limbaugh, the winning pitcher, went seven innings, allowing one earned run on six hits. He struck out eight and walked one behind an errorless defense.
"My kid Limbaugh pitched a heckuva game," said Moses. "He's been our workhorse, our big-game pitcher all year. He's the kind of guy you want in your foxhole."
Seyer, the loser, matched Limbaugh pitch for pitch, but the defense betrayed him in the sixth.
Seyer went the distance allowing no earned runs on five hits with eight strikeouts and three walks in six innings.
"Chase threw a dandy game," said Wood. "He threw plenty well enough to win."
Oran finally broke the scoring drought with a fifth-inning run.
A leadoff walk to Kody Campbell followed by a bunt single by Williams jumpstarted the Eagles. Campbell was forced at third on a fielders' choice groundout by Paul Bucher, leaving runners at second and first.
Ryan Bouge lined a single over the shortstop's head to score pinch-runner Beardslee for a 1-0 lead. On the play, Bucher was thrown out at third for the second out before Limbaugh quelled the threat with an inning-ending strikeout.
"Every run was big today," said Wood. "We scored in the fifth, but I didn't feel comfortable with it the way we were playing baseball today. Mentally, we did not play very well at all. We really struggled. Those things will catch up with you, especially in close games."
Oran took the 1-0 lead into the sixth but two huge errors helped the Hornets tally twice for a 2-1 advantage.
With one out, Advance catcher Darrell Wade singled up the middle, then stole second. Limbaugh grounded to third, but a wide throw pulled the first baseman off the bag as Wade darted for third. An overthrow to third base allowed Wade to trot home with the tying run as Limbaugh advanced to second on the throwing error.
Oran then intentionally walked Moses to set up a double-play situation, but James Masters ruined that plan. His long wind-blown single to right field plated Limbaugh with the go-ahead run.
Just prior to scoring what proved to be the game winner, Limbaugh had attempted to steal third while the Eagles huddled at the mound. An alert Seyer ran him down and applied the tag for the apparent second out, but the umpires, after a mild protest from Advance coach Moses, ruled that a timeout had been called.
In another bit of controversy during the bottom half of the fifth, Advance's Rusty Hendricks, who led the Hornets with a 2-for-3 day, bounced a grounder to first base, but it appeared the Oran first baseman tossed the ball away just before he touched the bag.
With the Oran players running off the field, Hendricks, who obviously thought he was safe, rounded the bases and touched home.
Again, a discussion ensued with both coaches, but the umpires ruled that Hendricks had been called out.
So ended Oran's district title streak and opportunity for a fourth straight state playoff appearance.
The Eagles have a third and two second places the past three seasons.
Said Wood, "Our kids'll bounce back and be ready to go again. Hopefully, we learned something from this…not everybody is going to come out and roll over for us."
Oran concluded the season at 17-8, while Advance improved to 18-2.
The Hornets advance to the sectional round against Holcomb (14-8) on Wednesday.