(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SPRINGFIELD -- Back in the Missouri High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) Show-Me Showdown for the third time in five years, the Oran Eagles will once again head to Springfield seeking their school's first state baseball championship.
This year marks the 11th time the Eagles have earned a spot in the Class 1 semifinals, which each previous trip ending in heartbreak.
After a one year absent from the championship tournament Oran pushed their way back to the Showdown last season where they met up with Liberal high school in the semifinals.
Despite holding a one-run advantage after five frames, the Eagles saw a two-run Liberal rally in the top of the sixth leave Oran with another third-place finish.
Though they lost a few seniors to graduation, most of this year's Eagle squad saw plenty of action in last year's playoff run.
A key contributor to that team, junior Kody Moore, sees a different, but more timely, style of offense with this year's squad than the one that finished third in last year's Showdown.
"That's the thing that makes us different than last year, but still makes us a good team," Moore said. "Last year we hit the ball first inning through seventh inning. We'd hit the ball and put up a lot of runs.
"This team doesn't hit the ball as well and put up as many runs, but like last year's team when we need the big hits we come through with them."
If Oran hopes to compete for the title they'll first have to get through semifinal opponent Santa Fe, who enters the contest with a 21-1 record.
Unlike the Eagles two close contest in the championship tournament Santa Fe has blown by their competition, including a 13-4 win over Canton in the quarterfinals and a 12-3 decision over Wellington in sectionals.
Bringing Oran to this point is a 6-3 win over Cooter in sectionals and a 4-1 win against Naylor in the quarterfinals.
Leading the Eagles coming into the semifinals is senior cleanup hitter Blake Carlyle with a .446 batting average. He has five doubles and has drove in 27 runs on the season.
Leadoff hitter Moore is batting .387 with eight doubles, three triples and five home runs. He also has a team-high 29 runs-batted-in. Sophomore Seth Ressel is batting .400 with four doubles, two triple and 33 runs-scored while senior Dalton Elfrink has five doubles, three triple and 26 RBI while batting .356.
Freshman Jacob Priggel and junior Alex Heuring are batting .324 and .289 respectively.
As a team the Eagles boast a .305 average, .422 on-base-percentage and .420 slugging-percentage.
With his team standing at 19-8 on the season, Oran head coach Mitch Wood attributes his team's improved play as of late to another run at the Showdown.
Wood said, "Honestly this bunch of kids at the beginning of the year, I knew hopefully we'd be put in a position to do something. But we've really came on and played some good baseball."
Some of the Eagles other more successful playoff runs in the last 10 years include a third-place finish in 2008 and back-to-back second-place finished in 2003 and 2004.
Oran will kick things off with Santa Fe on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Meador Park in Springfield. Whoever comes out on top will play the winner of Norwood/Sturgeon for the championship on Thursday at 1 p.m.