(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SPRINGFIELD -- With their other two starters, Zac Chasteen and Kody Moore, having pitched in the prior day's semifinal matchup, Oran turned to junior Dalton Elfrink on Thursday to take the mound with third place in the Class 1 state tournament on the line.
What Elfrink gave the Eagles was his best outing of the year, holding the St. Elizabeth Hornets to one hit in seven shutout innings as the Eagles rolled to a 10-0 win.
"I don't know how I ended up just coming out and doing that because for the last couple of games I wasn't throwing as good as what I had been," Elfrink said. "But I knew that whenever I came out on the field today that all our players would have my back.
"I know I can trust any of them with anything."
Though he issued a pair of walks while also hitting a batter, Elfrink cruised through the first five innings, taking a no hitter into the bottom of the sixth.
There, with two outs and facing the Hornets' Casey Helton, Elfrink saw his no-hit bid come to an end when Helton hit a blooper over a leaping second baseman's outstretched glove, landing in shallow center for single.
Staying composed, however, Elfrink came back and ended the inning with a pop up in the next at bat before retiring the side in order in the seventh to seal the win.
"After that little blooper I knew I couldn't let it get to me," said Elfrink, who finished the game with eight strikeouts. "I just had to play the game the same, keep my mind level, think straight and just throw the ball, don't aim."
Elfrink added it was the effectiveness of his curveball that made the outing so successful.
"My curveball was breaking a little bit," he said. "Every once in awhile it wouldn't do as much, but whenever I needed it the most is whenever it started working for me."
Backing Elfrink up was a defense that, after committing five errors the day prior in a 6-5 loss to Liberal, played flawless ball all seven innings.
"Today's a different story than yesterday," sophomore shortstop Kody Moore said. "We played good ball today.
"It was definitely a note I wanted to go out on and it's definitely a note I want the seniors to remember because that game right there caps our season."
On offense, Oran was able to put the Hornets in a hole early thanks to a five-run second inning where the Eagles came one batter shy of batting around the order.
Scoring the first two runs of the inning, Moore hit an double to left before No. 3 hitter Tyler Heuring scored runners from first and third on a triple.
Capping the rally, Heuring came in to score on a passed ball to give Oran a 5-0 lead.
After a scoreless third, the Eagles were able to add to their lead in each of the last four innings, including Heuring bringing in the final run of the night on a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Adam Schaefer from third in the seventh to make it 10-0.
"They gave us a few opportunities," Oran head coach Mitch Wood said. "But at the same time we took care of things and made things happen for ourselves."
Finishing the game with 10 hits, the Eagles were led by Moore who went 4 for 4 on the game with a double, followed by Heuring who had two hits, including the above mentioned triple.
"We started hitting good," Moore said. "I don't know where it went yesterday, but we came out today hitting good and were just ready."
Though they obviously would have liked to have been playing for the state title on Thursday, Moore said the Eagles (24-3) were just as intent on coming away with third place and finishing the season with a win.
"We came in to the tournament with the philosophy of let's make history and bring home Oran's first state title," said Moore. "Today we were leaving with let's not make history and bring home the first fourth place finish."
Oran 050 112 1 - 10 10 0
St. Elizabeth 000 000 0 - 0 1 5
WP -- Dalton Elfrink. LP -- Austin Rehagen. 2B -- (O) Kody Moore, Zac Chasteen. 3B -- Dalton Elfrink, Tyler Heuring.