Richard Stroud

Grove Sun

VINITA- After nine innings of near-total silence and trailing Vinita 6-0 in the final inning of game two, the Ridgerunner bats exploded in a big way with an eight-run inning, giving Grove an 8-6 win and a split of the doubleheader with the Hornets on Friday evening.

Game one was marked by shaky pitching and defense by both sides as the teams traded three-run innings early on. But after the two squads settled down, it was the Hornets who broke a four-all tie with a run in the bottom of the sixth for a 5-4 win.

As he did during the two teams' doubleheader a week ago, Grove leadoff hitter Buck Maples continued to torture Hornet pitching. Maples drove a waist-high fastball on a full count over left field in the top of the first inning to give the Ridgerunners a 1-0 lead. The solo shot was Maples' fourth against Vinita this season.

But the Hornets came out firing against Grove starter Gibson Russ in the bottom of the inning. After Cory Hext led off the inning with an infield single, Cameron Willy followed with a double to the left field wall that tied the score.

After an out, Hunter Highsmith fired a hard-hit single between short and third to give the Hornets a 2-1 lead. Following a second out and another single, a dropped pop up in the Ridgerunner infield allowed Highsmith to score, making it 3-1 after one inning.

Grove would follow with a three-run frame of their own, starting with a double by Russ to left field. A Hornet error put runners on the corners, and Ty Morrow scored Russ with a single to make the score 3-2. Four batters later, shortstop Zach Knox came up with the bases loaded and two outs. An apparently harmless grounder to second seemed to end the inning, but a juggling act by the Hornet first baseman enabled a hustling Knox to reach first, scoring Morrow and tying the game.

Trent Phillips would follow with a bases loaded walk to give Grove a 4-3 lead.

Tyler Lambert would tie the score for Vinita in the bottom of the fourth, when his towering fly ball just cleared the left field wall next to the foul pole for a solo home run.

Meanwhile, the Ridgerunner bats fell silent, as starting pitcher AJ King and reliever Ethan Ballew held Grove to just one hit after the second inning.

The Hornets finally broke through for the winning run in the bottom of the sixth. After a leadoff double by Ballew, King followed with a bouncing single between short and third two batters later to give Vinita the lead for good.

The Hornets would take advantage of wild Grove pitching to score six in the first inning of game two. Three consecutive walks to start the bottom of the first loaded the bases. Vinita would cash in with three hits and a Grove error, sending 10 men to the plater before the inning mercifully ended.

That seemed to be more than enough for game two starter Cameron Willy, who held Grove to just one hit while striking out five through the first four innings of the five inning game.

But Grove was given life in the top of the fifth when Hext came on in relief. Two walks, a double and a single followed, giving the Ridgerunners their first run with no outs.

Hext was relieved with the bases loaded, but Anthony Neibauer could not stop Grove's momentum. A walk by Maples, a wild pitch,  and a bloop single by Knox made the score 6-4, and an infield single by Phillips scored Maples, reducing Vinita's lead to one.

Another wild pitch would score Knox to tie the score, and Russ would provide what proved to be the winning RBI with a sacrifice fly to centerfield. Adam Steffenson, who also reached base on a walk earlier in the inning, would score on a wild pitch to make the final margin 8-6.

Morrow, who came on in relief in the first inning, held Vinita to just two hits over the final four innings to pick up the win.

The Ridgerunners will next be in action on Tuesday when they host the Salina Wildcats at 5:30.