The state final four is a different animal, though, and despite Oran's state tournament experience, the Eagles made six errors in Wednesday's Class 1 semifinal at Taylor Stadium.
Those miscues helped Sacred Heart of Sedalia post a 6-2 victory, as the Eagles failed once again to bring home their first state title. Oran (25-5) will play Silex (15-9) in the third-place game at 11 a.m. today.
Sacred Heart (21-2) will attempt to win its first state title against Stoutland (13-4) at 5 p.m. today. Stoutland beat Silex 9-5 in the other semifinal Wednesday.
"Defense got us here, and defense sent us home," Oran coach Mitch Wood said. "On top of that, too, we had to score more runs."
Oran avoided damage from an error in each of the first two innings and enjoyed a brief 1-0 lead thanks to a two-out RBI single by starting pitcher Austin Dumey in the top of the third.
Things quickly went south for the Eagles in the fourth. After third baseman Paul Bucher made a dazzling play down the line to rob Sacred Heart hitting star Jaric Reid of a double, Oran followed with three errors. John Kelley reached for the Gremlins when first baseman Joey Williams could not hold on to a low throw from Bucher.
Jason Lamb then hit a liner to left field, which Chris Asmus misplayed, resulting in a double. Williams dropped a short pop fly off the bat of Brett Simon that brought in the tying run.
With the bases loaded, Williams fielded a grounder and threw over the catcher's head on the force play, bringing in two more runs to put the Gremlins ahead 3-1 after four innings.
"You can't play poor defense and win ball games," Wood said.
The Eagles had the makings of a rally in the fifth with a leadoff single by Caleb Seyer.
Kody Campbell crushed a ball up the middle, but Gremlins shortstop Nick Turner made a diving stop, stepped on second and turned the double play to sniff out the rally.
Wood argued Campbell was safe at first to no avail.
"The kid made a good play, and they got the call," Wood said. "Those plays you get them in the pros."
Sacred Heart buried the Eagles with three more runs in the fifth, chasing Dumey after back-to-back singles to start the inning.
Bucher replaced Dumey but threw six straight balls and gave way to Chase Seyer with a 2-0 count and the bases loaded.
Seyer came back from a 3-0 count to get the first batter he faced, but walked a run in on a 3-2 count to Simon. Robert Fritz followed with what looked like an inning-ending double play, but Campbell's throw to first was in the dirt and two more runs scored.
"I thought our pitchers did a good job," Wood said. "You can't give them that many outs and expect a good result."
The 6-1 lead was more than enough for Reid. The junior right-hander struck out 10 over the first four innings and finished with 11 strikeouts. Reid allowed seven hits and two walks in the complete-game victory.
"Nick Turner played awesome shortstop for us today, and Jaric Reid threw great," Sacred Heart coach Steven Goodwin said. "That was the difference in the game today, I thought."
Dumey was charged with five runs in four innings of work, three earned. Dumey did not walk or strike out a batter, and gave up few well-hit balls during his four innings.
"He threw real well," Wood said. "I was tickled to death with Dumey. He did exactly what I asked him to."
Caleb Seyer drove in a run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the seventh, but the Eagles' rally came up short.
After scoring 31 runs in its past three games, Oran's offense never could figure out Reid.
All but two Oran starters went into the strikeout column for Reid, and cleanup hitter Chase Seyer fanned three times. Campbell led the Eagles with two hits. "We were taking a lot of strikes, and on top of that we were swinging at a lot of balls," Wood said.
Some of those strikeouts in the early going could be chalked up to an a generous strike zone, but Wood would not put any blame on the home plate umpire.
"I thought the umpire did a good job," Wood said. "You can't give up six or seven runs and say the umpire hurt you."
Turner and Fritz led Sacred Heart's six-hit attack with two hits apiece. Reid, who hit safely in the Gremlins' first 21 games before going 0-for-3 in the quarterfinals, had a single in his last at-bat.
Sacred Heart was officially given one error in the game -- the right fielder bobbled a single hit to him on a play that could have been scored either way -- but played strong defensively. Turner ended the game by turning his second double play.
"Turner made two huge double plays, and center fielder [Austin] Mullins ran down two pop flies in the alley," Goodwin said. "I thought we fielded it excellent today. That was the difference."
Oran's defensive lapses added to the list of frustrations for the Eagles in Columbia. This will be the eighth trip to the final four without a title for the Eagles, behind only Sikeston's nine for most appearances without a championship.
"You just try to keep coming up and try to get it done," Wood said. The Eagles do have history on their side entering the third-place game. In seven previous trips to the final four Oran has never finished fourth. There was no third-place game in the school's first two trips.
"The goal is to win every game," Wood said. "Hopefully, we'll be ready to play."
Sacred Heart 6, Oran 2
|Oran||001||000||1||--||2||7||6 Sacred Heart||000||330||x||--||6||6||1|
WP -- Jaric Reid, 9-2; LP -- Austin Dumey, 7-2. 2B -- Jason Lamb (SH). Multiple hits -- Oran, Kody Campbell 2-4; Sacred Heart, Nick Turner 2-4, Robert Fritz 2-3. Records -- Oran 25-5, Sacred Heart 21-2.