COLLINSVILLE- In the end, the Ridgerunners just ran out of comebacks.
After rallying past the Tulsa Memorial Chargers for an 8-5 on Tuesday, Grove lost to top-seed Collinsville 11-5 in the first game Wednesday before falling to the Chargers 7-5 in the nightcap to end their season.
“Our guys played hard,” Grove head coach Bret Bouher said. “We just didn’t have quite as many arms as [Memorial] did and that made the difference.”
The tournament started on a good note for the Ridgerunners on Tuesday with a come-from-behind win over the Chargers. Memorial took the lead in the top of the first inning with a leadoff triple by Josh Sparks followed by an RBI single by Jacob Peterson.
In what would become a theme for their tournament, the Ridgerunners would rally in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly by Adam Steffenson that scored Jake Martin and tied the score at one.
But Charger second baseman Brian Farrar would take advantage of the strong wind blowing out to left field at Pat Colpitt Field to hit a solo home run that gave the Chargers the lead back in the top of the second.
Grove would come back in the bottom of the inning, using a lead off walk by Benny Steffenson and a run-scoring single by Buck Maples to again take the lead. In the top of the third it would be Adam Steffenson who took advantage of the wind, taking a curveball over the left field wall to give the Ridgerunners their first lead of the day at 3-2.
The score would stay that way into the sixth, as Grove starting pitcher Bryce Davenport kept the Chargers in check, at one point striking out five consecutive batters following Farrar’s home run.
But Davenport would lead off the inning by hitting Chris Swayze with a pitch, and a bloop single by Daniel Mason fell just in front of a diving Taylor Morris in right field to tie the game. A balk, a passed ball and a throwing error would allow the Chargers to score two more runs, taking a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
Grove would rally in a big way, exploding for five runs in the bottom of the inning. Freshman Gibson Russ led off the inning with a home run to left centerfield, followed by an infield single by Zac Knox and a bunt single by Maples.
After a sacrifice fly by Martin tied the game, Davenport would hit a double down the left field line that gave the Ridgerunners the lead for good. Trent Phillips and Taylor Morris would follow with doubles of their own, giving Grove an 8-5 lead.
The Chargers would attempt to rally in the seventh, but after allowing two men on base, Davenport would buckle down, striking out Jerry Harris to end the game.
Grove would then meet up with the third-ranked Cardinals, who overwhelmed Ridgerunner pitching to the tune of 11 runs on 14 hits. A six-run third inning would prove to be the difference, as GHS fell 11-5, despite two RBIs from Martin.
That would put Grove in an elimination game with Memorial, who defeated Tahlequah in the second game on Tuesday. Once again the Ridgerunners would fall behind early, as the Chargers took a 3-0 lead after two innings.
Once again Grove would rally, getting three runs in the third to tie the game. After Russ walked, Knox and Maples would follow with singles, the latter scoring Russ for the first GHS run of the game. After Knox scored on a Davenport ground out, Maples would steal third and score on the ensuing throwing error by Charger catcher Justin Robertson to tie the game.
After Memorial took the lead on a two-run home run by Farrar, Davenport would strike again with a shot to left centerfield to tie the game at five.
But the Chargers would get two more in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good, as MHS reliever Jacob Peterson would hold the Ridgerunners scoreless over the final two innings.
“It’s disappointing,” Bouher said. “But with the lack of experience that we had coming in, it’s been a very successful season.”
The Ridgerunners finish 2010 with an 18-15 record. As of press time the Chargers were set to play Collinsville, needing to defeat the Cardinals twice to secure a trip to state.