ORAN -- The Oran Eagles are back in the hunt for another run at a state championship.
A rare early exit in 2005 prevented the Eagles from acquiring a fourth straight district title but they avenged that loss to Advance on Thursday with an 8-3 victory over the Hornets in the Class 1, District 2 final.
"It was a good feeling," said Oran coach Mitch Wood, of the Eagles return as district champions. "We didn't get it last year and we had to live with that for a whole year."
Oran (23-4), winners of nine district championships in 13 years, hosts the Cooter Wildcats (15-11) in the sectional round on Wednesday at 4 p.m., with the victor advancing to the state quarterfinals on Friday.
Cooter coach Alan Crawford, said, "They (Oran) have so much tradition over the last 15 years. They've been to the final four in four of the last five years. "The Wildcats are excited about winning the district and playing in the sectional, but Oran will not be excited until they get back to the final four in Columbia."
Oran, on a 11-0 streak, is still a work in progress, according to Wood.
"Honestly, stacked against other teams that I've had, this team would be in the top ten, but not in the top two or three," he said. "They've got the potential to be a really good team, but we're still very young. We've got a lot of sophomores and juniors filling a lot of spots. As far as being a great team, this bunch is along the lines of where some of those better teams were at this stage."
In head-to-head competition, Oran run-ruled Cooter earlier in the season but coach Wood prefers his team has a short memory.
"They didn't use one of their better pitchers and they've gotten better since then, just like we have," he said. "Hopefully, we'll forget that and come out ready to play baseball. This time of the year, you can't come out not ready for anybody."
Crawford said, "We know the Eagles are good but we feel that we'll have a better chance in the next meeting."
Oran opened the season with several serious injury concerns to top players but melded as a team and appear to be playing their best baseball now.
"We went through some ups and downs and now we're playing pretty good and it's a fun time of the year for us right now," said Wood. "We got healthy, our defense has really played well and you can't leave out the hitting and pitching. We've got nine, actually 10, kids up and down the lineup that can put the ball in play and everybody's just picking each other up."
The Eagles, who Crawford called the best hitting team he's faced this season, have six starters hitting .338 or above, led by sophomore second baseman Kody Campbell at .506. Senior Austin Dumey, the Eagles' RBI leader with 43, has the second highest batting average at .429, followed by sophomore catcher Caleb Seyer at .421, sophomore shortstop Tyler Beardslee at .372, junior outfielder/pitcher Chase Seyer at .351 and junior Chris Asmus at .338.
Chase Seyer heads a group of five with three or more home runs with a team-
leading five. Caleb Seyer and Beardslee have clouted four each.
Dumey tops the Eagle pitching staff with a 6-1 record while Chase Seyer and sophomore Alex Chasteen are at 5-1.
Cooter's top pitchers are freshman Aaron McCaig with a 4-3 record and a win over Holcomb in the district final, senior Andreas Gonzalez at 6-4 and senior Chris Littleton at 3-2.
Offensively, Corey Hinklin paces the Wildcat hitters with a .419 average. Littleton leads the RBI category with 24, while Josh Hutton and McCaig was close behind with 23 apiece. Hutton has a team-leading five home runs. Oran, always tough on their field, relishes the home-field advantage.
"No doubt about it," said Wood. "We've got one of the best crowds in Southeast Missouri when it comes to baseball and our bunch does a good job of hosting it and that's definitely a plus."