Richard Stroud

Grove Sun

GROVE – A line drive, three-run home run off the bat of Grove centerfielder Buck Maples in the bottom of the fifth brought a sudden end to the Grand Lake Baseball Classic Saturday night. Maples’ sixth home run in a week and fourth of the Classic gave the Ridgerunners a 12-4 lead over the Catoosa Indians in the championship game, ending the contest by run-rule and giving Grove the tournament title. The Ridgerunners (13-13) overcame an early 4-0 deficit, taking advantage of 10 walks issued by three Catoosa pitchers. Catoosa, which had defeated Grove 9-1 on March 7 and again 10-2 in the finals of the Catoosa Tournament on March 19, looked to be on their way to another win over the Ridgerunners – and another tournament title – when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. The Indians (16-11) took advantage of three walks issued by Grove starter Gibson Russ to load the bases, which were then unloaded when Dustin Haueter drove a double to left field. The Ridgerunners would come back in their next at-bat in the bottom of the third inning, taking advantage of four consecutive walks to load the bases and force Maples home with the first run of the night for Grove. Adam Steffenson then drove a ball to deep centerfield for a bases-clearing triple to give the Ridgerunners their first lead of the night at 4-3. The Indians would tie the game in the top of the fourth, loading the bases with two more walks sandwiched around a double by Ty Rainey. A sacrifice fly would tie the game before a line drive right at Grove shortstop Bryce Davenport resulted in an inning-ending double play. Grove would again load the bases in the bottom of the fourth. Zac Knox reached base by being hit by a pitch, followed by a single by Davenport and a Maples walk. This time it was T.J. Stephens who delivered the big hit, lining a double to left field to score Knox and Davenport for a 6-4 Ridgerunner lead. Russ would then help his own cause with a two-run single to make it 8-4. Russ would eventually round the bases on three wild pitches before the inning was over, making the score 9-4. After Russ worked around a one-out walk to keep the Indians scoreless in the top of the fifth, Knox led off the bottom of the frame by getting hit by another pitch. Davenport then followed with a walk, setting up Maples to end the game with a low liner that just cleared the left field wall for the final margin.