Oran tops Naylor again
NAYLOR -- The Naylor Eagles knocked on the door once again but just came a few plays short of walking on through to the final four.
The Eagles never let Oran out of reach Wednesday afternoon in the MSHSAA Class 1 quarterfinal game but they also couldn't get over the hump.
Oran scored one run in the first inning and held on the rest of the way for a 4-1 win, beating Naylor in the quarterfinal for a second straight year.
"We didn't play well enough in my opinion to beat a good team like Oran," Naylor coach Jeff 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 will make its 11th trip to the final four. Last year, they beat Naylor 14-13 in the quarterfinals to earn the trip to Springfield.
Oran (19-8) will play Santa Fe (21-1) in the semifinals on May 30.
Oran coach Mitch Wood was proud of his team making it to the final week again. The school has been runner-up in the state finals three times and have won the seven third-place games.
"Every time we do something it feels great," Wood said. "I was hoping we'd be put in position to do something but we really came on and played some good baseball."
The turning point for Naylor (11-10) came in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Trailing 2-0, the Eagles got two runners on with no outs, which ran off Oran starter Seth Ressel, who had allowed just three hits heading into the inning.
Wood put in ace Kody Moore who pitched 3 2/3 innings against Cooter on Monday. He entered the game with 3-0 count on Taylor Davis. Moore couldn't salvage the at-bat as Davis walked to load the bases.
After striking out Tyler Wilkerson, Mark Gargac hit a single to left field to score Graham to make it 2-1 Oran.
Then on a squeeze bunt attempt with Montana Lutes at the plate, Dawson Goodrum was called out at the plate on a close call.
"A ball that we bunt to third, the pitcher throws it and it bounces off the runner's shoulder right into the catcher," Null said. "Nine times out of 10 that goes somewhere else and it's a tie ballgame.
"That's a bad break."
Moore then got out of the inning by getting Jordan McGee to ground out to second base.
"Moore came in and he threw pretty much a fastball and we got that one hit by Mark (Gargac) and that one little play could have tied the game," Null said.
In a tight situation, Wood didn't think twice about making a change on the mound.
"I wasn't going to lose with Moore at shortstop," Wood said. "We were going to lose with him on the mound if we are going to lose."
Oran then added two insurance runs in the seventh.
Alex Heuring reached on an infield single as the ball dropped in between first base and the pitcher. Blake Carlyle than reached base on a throwing error. Dalton Elfrink then smacked an RBI single to right field.
After Jacob Priggel got hit by a pitch to load the bases, Adam Schaeffer squeeze bunted in a run as Naylor tried to get the force out at the plate but didn't get there in time.
Naylor ace Dalton Woodard then got out of the jam by getting a force out at the plate with the bases still loaded and struck out the last batter.
Naylor, however, went down in order to end the game.
"We hung around in the ballgame," Null said. "We were just hoping to get a chance. We got bases loaded there. The bottom of the order was up and we just had to put it in play, see what happens."
Woodard was shaky at the start but settled in real nicely for Naylor.
He walked the first two batters of the game and the third hitter reached on an error. With the bases loaded and no outs, Woodard got out of the jam but Oran scored on passed-ball strike out to make it 1-0.
He didn't allow a run again until the sixth inning when Schaeffer got his first RBI on a single to right that scored Priggel.
"He had some nerves that first inning," Null said. "He walked the first two batters which hadn't done that since the Malden game (on April 26). He settled down after that and his curveball was good. He got out of a couple jams. Bases loaded with no outs and he only let up one run."
Woodard struck out 13 and allowed seven hits with only one earned run.
Wood was impressed with Woodard, who will play at Lindenwood University.
"He's a good pitcher," Wood said. "He's as good as we've seen and possibly will see. He did a fantastic job. He had just a little defensive let down."
Overall it was an up-and-down season for Naylor. The Eagles started off 1-6 on the spring but got to the .500 mark in time to get the No. 3 seed in their district. Naylor then beat Koshkonong and upset Van Buren and Neelyville in the championship game for its second straight district title.
On Monday, Naylor defeated Oak Ridge for the second straight year in the sectional round.
"We've come a long way," Null said. "We weren't expecting this but the kids expected it. The way we were two years ago mentally to now we expect this. They were expecting to go to the final four. I'm proud as heck of this team this year."
Naylor loses three key seniors from this year's team in Woodard, Wilkerson and Lutes.
"They are all a little bit different," Null said. "Tyler's our best base runner and athlete on the team. Dalton was our stud on the hill and Montana is our vocal leader at third base. He keeps everybody up and everybody in the game."