(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SPRINGFIELD -- After giving up three unearned runs on five errors in Wednesday's Class 1 semifinal matchup with Liberal, the Oran Eagles once again needed late-inning heroics if they were to keep their state title hopes alive.
Unlike their come-from-behind quarterfinal over Naylor, however, the Eagles watched the Bulldogs hold on for a 6-5 win at Meador Park in Springfield.
"We've done it enough all year," Oran's Dylan Dannenmueller said of his team's late-inning comebacks. "Especially these past couple of games.
"I honestly thought there towards the end we could pull it out, but it just didn't turn out our way this time."
Plagued by errors all afternoon, the Eagles watched what was once a 5-4 lead just an inning earlier turn into a one-run deficit in the sixth when a dropped infield pop up to start the inning opened the door for the Bulldogs.
With one out, Liberal's No. 2 hitter Dylan Massa hit a grounder to left field that scored the tying and go-ahead runs to put the Bulldogs up 6-5.
Though Oran initially looked like they might quickly come back to tie in the bottom of the inning with the lead off hitter reaching on a single, a botched squeeze attempt left the tying run out at home before a strikeout ended the inning.
"You got one out and you got the eight, nine hitters up," Oran coach Mitch Wood said. "Even though our nine hitter had a big hit, average-wise it's not going to be very good with eight, nine. And you know, it's a 2-1 count. He's coming in with a strike. I just thought it was a good time."
Closing out the game, the Bulldogs' Guillermo Rojo came in to start the seventh and retired the side in order to seal Liberal's trip to the championship game.
"They battled, don't get me wrong," Wood said of his team. "They're a good battling team, but they just make a lot of mistakes. You can't make mistakes and usually get this far even."
Trailing 2-0 after the first inning, Oran took the lead in the bottom of the third when Kody Moore led off with a walk and later scored on a wild pitch. Tyler Heuring's single scored Dalton Elfrink, who was hit by a pitch, and then later scored himself on a wild pitch.
Liberal had six wild pitches and one passed ball in the game, leading to several Oran runs, helped by the massive area behind home plate at Meador Park.
"If they'd had a catcher, I don't know if we would've scored one or two runs," Wood said. "That's kind of the way we've been playing here lately is people have been giving us games. This bunch, Liberal, didn't step up and give us the game."
After Liberal scored two more runs in the fourth, Oran answered with two more in the bottom of the inning helped by another wild pitch and an RBI single by Moore.
Allowing all six runs, which three were earned, senior Zac Chasteen took the loss. He went 5 1/3 innings giving up six hits and three walks while striking out five.
Moore came in to close out the contest, pitching the final 1 2/3 innings allowing no runs on two hits.
With the loss the Eagles will now play St. Elizabeth, who lost 9-8 to La Plata, tonight at 7 p.m. in the third place game. Oran has never finished first or fourth in their previous nine trips to the final four.
Liberal 200 202 0 - 6 8 2
Oran 003 200 0 - 5 5 5
WP -- Colten Selvey. LP -- Zac Chasteen. SV -- Guillermo Rojo. 2B -- (L) Timothy Splitter, Dillon Coleman; (O) Dylan Dannenmueller.