GROVE – An inability to find the strike zone proved to be too much to overcome for the Grove Ridgerunners as they lost a District 5A-3 showdown with second-ranked Claremore 13-3 Monday at the Grove Sports Complex.
The Zebras (21-3 overall, 10-0 in district play) and the Ridgerunners (18-9, 7-1) were the only two teams in the district undefeated in district games this season. The two teams will meet again on Tuesday in Claremore, and a win by the Zebras will essentially insure them a district title.
Grove pitchers allowed six hits but walked 11 Claremore batters on Monday, seven of whom scored. The Zebras finally broke the game open with five runs on one hit in the fourth inning to take a 6-1 lead. The Ridgerunners issued three walks and two wild pitches in that inning alone, with Claremore’s only hit a single by Brandon Varnell.
The Zebras added three more runs in the sixth and four more in the seventh for the final margin. Junior catcher Matt Whatley had an RBI triple in the sixth and a three-run home run in the seventh.
The Ridgerunners took the early lead with an RBI single by Erick Ryan in the bottom of the first inning. Gibson Russ singled with one out and later stole second with two outs before scoring on Ryan’s line drive to right centerfield.
The Zebras tied the score in the second with an unearned run and took the lead in the third thanks to three walks and a sacrifice fly.
Trailing 6-1 following the big top of the fourth, the Ridgerunners rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Kody Stephenson walked and scored on a booming triple to right centerfield by Russ, who later scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-3.
But Claremore’s Bryce Howe kept the Ridgerunners off the scoreboard for the final two innings, getting nine strikeouts in the complete game win, the 12th in a row for the Zebras.
The two teams will meet at 4:30 Tuesday in Claremore.