(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- Before every at-bat, Oran senior Gabe Kielhofner takes a few hacks in a soft toss session right beside the dugout.
"It's kind of a little superstition I guess," he admitted.
As luck would have it, Wednesday against the New Madrid County Central Eagles, Kielhofner broke out of a personal 1-for-10 slump at the plate in his last three games in a big way for the Eagles.
Three doubles and five RBI by Kielhofner led Oran to an 8-5 win over the NMCC Eagles.
"I just felt like I needed to start hitting the ball," said Kielhofner. "I was just up there ready and had some confidence.
"One good hit gives you the confidence to keep doing it."
With Oran leading 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Kielhofner delivered his first big hit of the game. With the bases jammed and one out, Kielhofner belted his second double of the day into right-center field, clearing the bases in the process.
Oran led 5-0 after their four-run fourth inning.
NMCC did not go away quietly, however. A three-run home run by Colin Ivie that bounced off the top of the fence in left-center and then over, pulled NMCC back to within two runs after the fifth.
Ivie's fourth RBI of the day cut the deficit to just one run in the sixth following a sacrifice fly that scored CJ Chism from third.
Leading 6-5 and entering the last inning, Kielhofner, again, made the most of his opportunities with runners on base and knocked his third double of the day scoring Trenton Hency and Kody Moore to make it the final of 8-5.
"Gabe has stepped up all year long," Oran head coach Mitch Wood said. "He's hitting well with men on base so, hopefully he'll continue it for the next couple of weeks."
Kielhofner's luck stayed with him on the mound as well. He relieved starter Trent Irwin in the fifth inning immediately following Ivie's bomb to left.
With some early struggles trying to find the plate and battling the raucous NMCC fans directly behind the plate, Kielhofner settled down and closed the book on NMCC.
"I had a tough time, really, throwing strikes," Kielhofner said. "They'd get a hit and it would kind of rattle me a little bit.
"The fans behind the plate didn't help matters much."
As Irwin picked up the win, Kielhofner earned the save in 2 2/3 innings giving up one unearned run on four hits and three walks. He also struck out three as well.
"Right now, our pitching and defense is getting us through," said Wood. "Irwin pitched a whale of a ballgame for five innings. We have three games this week so we told him we needed five or six out of him."
Oran (13-6) had six hits combined against NMCC starter Jimmy Ash and reliever Chism. They tagged Ash with six runs, one earned, on five hits and four walks. They got Chism for two unearned runs one hit and five walks.
Leading NMCC was Kyle Harris who also had three hits including two doubles. NMCC had a total of 10 hits in their valiant comeback effort.
"One thing I can always say is that they never give up," Jones said. "We were focused on this game. The biggest thing that hurt us today was when we had the opportunity to score runs, we just didn't produce."
Oran is scheduled to play Chaffee today at 4 p.m. in an important district seed deciding match-up. NMCC (3-17) will play Malden today at 4 p.m as well.
Oran 010 410 2 -- 8
NMCC 000 131 0 -- 5
WP -- Trent Irwin. LP -- Jimmy Ash. S -- Gabe Kielhofner. Multiple hitters -- (O) Kielhofner 3-5. (N) Kyle Harris 3-4, CJ Chism 2-3. 2B -- (O) Kielhofner 3. (N) Harris 2, Chism. HR -- (N) Colin Ivie.