ORAN -- The top-seeded Oran Eagles advanced to the Class 1, District 2 championship game with an 11-1, six inning victory over fourth-seeded Leopold on Tuesday at Oran High School.
The Eagles (19-2) will play No. 2 seed Bernie (15-8) for the district title today at 4 p.m.
Oran got it done with pitching and defense as Zac Chasteen went the distance on the mound.
Head coach Mitch Wood said getting the strong performance from Chasteen was a welcome sight.
"It wasn't his best performance, but he got the job done," Wood said. "He's had some arm trouble and he's not throwing near as hard right now and Kody (Moore is) hurt right now, so we're having to battle. Chasteen came through when we needed him to and that's a big lift because I wasn't really expecting to throw him much in this tournament."
Chasteen only allowed three hits in six innings, walking three and striking out four. He was backed up by solid defense as the Eagles committed no errors, with the exception of his own errant throw on a pickoff attempt.
Even when Leopold would get a base runner, sophomore catcher Alex Heuring erased two of them lingering too far from the bag.
"The catcher did a fantastic job," Wood said of Heuring. "He was just really solid. He's just a sophomore and he's still learning, but he really did a solid job back there."
Oran's offense was also solid, pounding out 10 hits and making Leopold pay for every mistake.
The Wildcats (9-7) committed four errors and their pitchers combined to walk and hit eight batters in the game.
Leopold pitcher Joe Elfrink threw five innings and allowed six runs, but only two were earned. Gregg Davis threw the sixth inning in relief.
"You're not going to beat a team like Oran giving up unearned runs," Leopold coach James Lewis said. "That was the bane of our season -- errors. You can't make errors."
The game did not start well for Leopold.
The Wildcats put runners on first and second with nobody out in the top of the first inning, but Chasteen worked his way out of the jam with a strikeout, fielder's choice and a groundout.
Oran came right back with two runs in the bottom of the first on Nolan Urhahn's two-run single to lead 2-0.
"That's huge," Wood said. "That gave us a lot of momentum going forward. Again, our pitching and defense is what got us out of that."
Lewis felt that if his team could have gotten the early lead in the game, then the pressure would be on Oran to respond.
"That wasn't the game, but that could've changed the complexion of the first two or three innings, which could've had a different bearing on the rest of the game," Lewis said.
After that, Oran added one run in each of the second and third innings to lead 4-0.
Leopold's Lance Seiler gave his team a glimmer of hope in the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run to left field to cut the lead to 4-1.
But that was the only mistake Chasteen would make.
Oran broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth on Dalton Elfrink's two-run single to lead 6-1.
The Eagles enforced the 10-run rule in the bottom of the sixth with five runs. The game ended with a hard grounder that was mishandled by Leopold's third baseman, bringing in the final two runs.
"You hear it a lot, a good team makes their own breaks," Lewis said. "You put the ball in play, things happen. You put the ball in play sharply, even more things happen. Oran took advantage of every one of our mistakes."
Oran was led in hitting by Elfrink (2-4, 2 RBIs), Tyler Heuring (2-3, run) and Blake Carlyle (2-3, 2 RBIs, 3 steals).
Seiler collected two of Leopold's three hits.
Now Oran will attempt to win its first district title in three years today against Bernie.
"They're a good team and we look forward to a good, quality game with them," Wood said. "We've got the Elfrink kid ready to pitch and we've still got a few innings left out of Seth Ressel. I feel good about our chances if our pitchers can throw strikes and if our defense can continue to make plays."
|Leopold||000 010 -- 1|
|Oran||211 025 -- 11|
WP -- Zac Chasteen. LP -- Joe Elfrink. HR -- (L) Lance Seiler.
Trailing 6-2 entering the top of the seventh, the third-seeded Scott County Central Braves put together a furious rally to try to keep their season alive.
The Braves cut the lead to 6-4 on Ben Freed's bases loaded two-run double to straightaway centerfield that glanced off the outfielder's glove.
Then Kameron Johnson brought home another run on an infield single deep in the hole between second and third, trimming the lead to 6-5.
Johnson then stole second to set up runners on second and third with two outs.
But Bernie pitcher Blake Keasler came up with a strike out on a 3-2 curve ball to secure the victory for the Mules.
"It was a great job for the boys coming back down 6-2," Scott Central coach Matt Limbaugh. "It was easy to fold right there. But we got it started and got some runners on base. We had an opportunity to tie or win the game if we put the ball in play but unfortunately that didn't happen and Bernie's moving on."
Scott Central took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning and held the advantage until the bottom of the third when Keasler hit a grand slam to push the Mules ahead 4-1.
Keasler managed to close out the win from there on the mound, striking out nine and walking five.
Freed was saddled with the loss in 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and just one walk with a pair of strikeouts.
"Ben Freed threw a great game," Limbaugh said. "You couldn't ask anything more out of your senior ace. He just had one bad inning. A couple booted balls and a pitch left up in the zone that Keasler hit out to left were his only mistakes. I was proud of the way he threw the ball."
Johnson led the Braves with three hits and two RBIs. Freed went 2-3 with a pair of RBIs. Brian Freed also went 2-3 with two runs scored.
Seniors Ben and Brian Freed, Trey Johnson, Josh Boese and Blake Pobst will all graduate from this year's team, but they left a legacy, shattering the previous school win record of nine, by going 11-8 this season.
"A big goal for the boys this year was to get that record," Limbaugh said. "All praise to the seniors for setting that goal and accomplishing it. Hopefully this will get Scott Central baseball on the map in Southeast Missouri."
|Scott Central||100 001 3 -- 5|
|Bernie||004 101 x -- 6|
WP -- Blake Keasler. LP -- Ben Freed. 2B -- (S) Freed, Kameron Johnson. HR -- (B) Keasler.