The Grove Ridgerunner baseball team traveled to Willard, Missouri on Saturday, March 22, to play a set of games against the Willard Tigers and Fort Osage Indians.
The Ridgerunners defeated Fort Osage 5-0 and lost to Willard 9-3. The split puts the Ridgerunners season record at 10-3 and 4-0 in district play.
They were set to play a home game against Locust Grove on Monday, March 25, weather permitting, and plan to travel to Locust Grove on Tuesday, March 26 for district games.
“I always enjoy playing Willard,” Ridgerunner head coach Donny Pennington said following the game. “I’ve played against Coach McGee at Willard for years and I always know his team is going to be a challenge for us and push us in different ways. This might be his best team yet.”
Grove 5, Fort Osage 0
The game against Fort Osage was close with neither team scoring through 4 innings. Senior Jack Gentry started the game for the Ridgerunners and threw 4.1 scoreless innings before leaving in the fifth inning with two runners on. Gentry didn’t allow a hit but walked 7 batters and struck out 5.
“It doesn’t usually work like that,” pitching coach Drew Osborne said. “When you put guys on base for free it just takes one swing to beat you. Today, Jack didn’t let that swing happen. He competed with guys on base and found the will to win.”
Senior Cade Coble played the role of fireman for the Ridgerunners coming into the game with two runners on. Coble kept the inning where it was recording two strikeouts and ending the threat.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Toby Cearley started the Ridgerunners out with a perfect bunt single down the third base line.
On an 0-2 pitch, Cearley stole second. Then, after Zane Knox popped up, Cearley stole third and advanced home when the throw trickled into left field giving the Ridgerunners a 1-0 lead.
With one out in the sixth, Fort Osage was able to spray a full count pitch into right field recording their only hit of the game. Coble got the next two hitters out preserving the lead.
The Ridgerunners finally broke through in the bottom of the inning after Chat Hayes lead of with a line drive double into the right center field gap.
Seth Willis hit a ground ball behind the runner to the second baseman advancing pinch runner Gunner Jensen to third base with one out.
The Ridgerunners squeezed and Lane Rutherford executed a perfect push bunt to second base that wound up being a single putting the Ridgerunners up 2-0. Colin Craig doubled into the gap driving in Rutherford putting the Ridgerunners up 3-0.
With two outs, Cearley doubled and Knox singled pushing the Ridgerunner lead to five.
Toby Cearley came in to finish the game striking out the side for the Ridgerunners.
Knox had 3 hits for the Ridgerunners and drove in a run.
Cearley had 2 hits, scored 2 runs, drove in a run, and stole 2 bases.
Hayes also had two hits for the Ridgerunners.
Rutherford and Craig both had 1 hit, 1 run scored, and 1 run driven in. Craig also walked.
Willard 9, Grove 3
The second game didn’t go quite as well for the Ridgerunners even though they took an early 1-0 lead over the #8 rated Class 5 team in Missouri.
Jack Gentry walked with two outs. Chase Coughran hit a funky ground ball back to the mound with some weird spin that bounced funny causing the pitcher to miss it.
Willard helped the Ridgerunners out again on the next play when Chat Hayes hit a grounder to the second baseman who was unable to handle the hot shot. Seth Willis reached on an infield single allowing a run to score giving the Ridgerunners the lead.
Ridgerunner starting pitcher Lane Rutherford was able to escape a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the first inning when he struck out back-to-back hitters to end the innings.
The Ridgerunners loaded the bases again in the top of the second inning but they were unable to score any runs.
Willard loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning meaning that both teams loaded the bases in each of their first two respective half innings. A Ridgerunner error allowed two runs to score putting the Ridgerunners down 2-1.
Three walks, two errors, and one hit by pitch doomed the Ridgerunners in the bottom of the third. The Tigers were able to score three runs putting them up 5-1.
Logan Engles came in to pitch the fourth inning for the Ridgerunners and threw a 1-2-3 inning for the Ridgerunners before he ran into trouble in the fifth.
Two bunt singles and a walk loaded the bases for Willard with one out bringing junior third baseman and Mizzou commit Garrett Rice to the plate.
Rice is considered the top hitter in the 2020 class of Missouri high school baseball players. Rice proved the accolades are possibly correct when he hit a changeup about 450 feet to left field.
Once the bases were empty, Engles had no more problems retiring the next five Willard hitters.
The Ridgerunners got a mini-rally going in the top of the seventh inning scoring two runs before recording their final out. Hayes Pavatt and Cearley recorded singles to start the inning before Knox walked.
A ground ball from Gentry scored a run. Coughran followed that up with an infield single scoring another run. The Ridgerunners left the bases loaded and suffered a 9-3 defeat.
Cearley lead the Ridgerunners with 3 hits and stole a base.
Coughran, Willis, and Pavatt were the only other three Ridgerunners to collect a hit.
Knox and Gentry both walked twice and scored a run.