(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
NAYLOR -- Needing just one more win to make it back to the MSHSAA Show-Me Showdown the Oran Eagles got the kind of clutch pitching and timely hitting against Naylor on Wednesday that has defined their postseason.
In a rematch of last year's Class 1 regional, pitcher's Seth Ressel and Kody Moore combined for seven innings of four-hit ball as Oran held on to an early lead for a 4-1 final.
"It was an even crazier game last year and we knew what to expect coming in to today," Moore said, reference last year's 14-13 Oran win. "We knew (Naylor ace) Dalton Woodard would be throwing. He's a good pitcher and we saw him last year.
"We were very limited last year when he pitched to hardly any offense. We knew we were just going to have to hit the ball today and put the ball in play."
Woodard was able to escape bases loaded situations twice in the first three innings with the only damage coming from a passed ball in the first frame that allowed Oran to score the go-ahead run.
It wasn't until the top of the sixth that Oran was able to add to its lead when a single by Adam Schaefer made Naylor pay for a walk in the previous at bat.
In the bottom of the frame, Naylor took advantage of two straight Oran errors to eventually load the bases. Aaron Graham scored with one out on a RBI single by Mark Gargac to close to within a run.
Before a full-fledged rally could get under way, however, Oran caught a break at the plate to save at least what would have been the tying run.
Trying to sacrifice an out for a run, Naylor's Montana Lutes dropped a bunt down the third base side that was retrieved by the pitcher Moore.
Going for the force out at home Moore's throw was a little off target but, thanks to a fortunate ricochet, bounced off the runner and into catcher Alex Heuring's glove for the out.
"That was a little luck there," Oran head coach Mitch Woods said. "It hit off the kid shoulder and right to (Heuring's glove).
"I'd like to say he's agile and makes that play a lot, but he don't. He just got a little luck, it hit (the runner) and went in there."
Added Naylor head coach Jeff Null, "Nine times out of 10 that goes somewhere else and it's a tie ballgame. That's a bad break."
Moore struck out the next batter to end the threat.
With one last chance to add to their slim one-run lead Oran put a pair of runners on to start the seventh before a line drive to left field by Dalton Elfrink plated the first run of the inning.
A bases-loaded one-out bunt by Schaefer gave Oran a more comfortable 4-1 advantage.
Coming back to the mound to close out the win Moore picked up two strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh as he retired the top of Naylor's lineup in order.
"We didn't play well enough in my opinion to beat a good team like Oran," Null said. "Scoring just one run first off (hurt us). Secondly, a couple runs we gave them. First two runs score on lead-off walks and then a bad 0-2 pitch. We just didn't execute to beat a good team this time of year."
Oran outhit Naylor 8-4 with Ressel, Heuring and Schaefer all coming away with two-hit efforts. Heuring was 2 for 3 with a walk and run scored while Schaefer drove in two runs, including the game-winner.
Blake Carlyle and Elfrink added a single each to Oran's cause.
"We got on real early, but we had trouble getting people in," Heuring said. "We had some big key at bats from some big time players and I'm really proud of them for hanging in there."
For Naylor, Woodard and Jordan McGee each doubled. Aaron Graham and Gargac had singles to round out their team's offense.
Leaving after a couple of errors put Oran in a jam in the sixth Ressel picks up the win. He went five full innings while giving up Naylor only run of the game, unearned, on three hits and a walk.
"I felt really good," Ressel said. "I hadn't thrown in awhile. Elfrink and Kody had been doing most the work in districts and sectionals. It was hot today. I kept drinking a lot of water, but it really didn't work."
Moore came in to close the door with runners on first and second in the sixth and a 3-0 count to batter Taylor Davis. He walked Davis before a one-out bases-loaded single brought home Naylor's only run.
The final five batters were retired in order as he picked up the save pitching two full innings and struck out three.
On bringing Moore in to get out of a rough sixth inning Wood said, "I wasn't going to lose with Moore at shortstop. We were going to lose with him on the mound if we were going to lose today."
Taking the loss, Woodard pitched a full seven innings, allowing eight hits and four walks while fanning 13, including three straight in two separate innings.
Last season Woodard was only able to pitch three innings in the two teams' regional contest after pitching a complete game in sectionals against Oak Ridge.
Despite that game's 14-13 slugfest appearance, Woodard allowed only one run in his three frames before being pulled due to his inning limit.
"He's as good as we've seen and possibly will see," Wood said. "He did a fantastic job, he just had a little bit of a defensive let down and we made some plays there at the end to made things work for us."
With the win Oran returns to the Show-Me Showdown for the second straight year after a third-place finish in 2011. They'll play Sante Fe (21-1) in the semifinals when things kick off on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Springfield.
Oran 100 001 2 - 4 8 3
Naylor 000 001 0 - 1 4 1
WP -- Seth Ressel. SV -- Kody Moore. LP -- Dalton Woodard. Multiple hitters: (O) Seth Ressel 2-3, Alex Heuring 2-3, Adam Schaefer 2-4. 2B -- (N) Dalton Woodard, Jordan McGee.