GROVE- The Grove Ridgerunners will begin its run toward a possible state tournament berth when they travel to Collinsville for a Class 5A baaseball regional on Tuesday.
But in order to get to state, the Bret Bouher's squad will have to overcome the third-ranked team in the state in the host Cardinals, as well as challenges from the Tulsa Memorial Chargers and the Tahlequah Tigers.
The Ridgerunners finished the regular season having won three out of their last five following a six-game losing streak. GHS split their final two games of the regular season last week in what turned out to be a regional preview, defeating Tahlequah 14-4 on Tuesday before losing to Memorial 7-1 on Thursday in the regular season finale. Overall Grove finished with a 17-13 record, 6-2 against Class 5A teams.
The Ridgerunners will try to get their revenge against a Memorial Chargers team that will go into the regional with a deceptive 14-19 record. However, the Chargers are 6-4 against 5A teams, including a 3-3 record against top-10 teams. But Sandy Ferrell's team is just 4-12 in games at neutral sites.
However it is Collinsville that is the clear favorite to return to the state tournament, where they went 1-2 in 2009. The Cardinals enter the regional having won 18 of their last 20 games, with their only losses coming to fifth-ranked Claremore last Thursday (8-6) and to fourth-ranked Pryor (13-4) at the McAlester Shootout on April 23. However the Cardinals have already beaten the Tigers twice this season and defeated the Zebras 12-2 on April 5.
Overall Tony Reeder's team enters with a 24-6 record, but are 13-3 against 5A teams, including an 11-3 win over Memorial on April 27, and a 21-8 pounding of Tahlequah on April 9.
The Cardinals will open the tournament against a once-great Tahlequah program that has fallen on hard times. Under first-year coach Nick Zodrow, the Tigers, who won state titles in 1971 and 1996, have won just five games this year.
Collinsville and Tahlequah will open the tournament on Tuesday at 1:00, with the Ridgerunners and Chargers following at approximately 3:30.