Champions. Two no-hitters. The Tournament MVP. The Great Teammate award. Eight All-Tournament Team Players. Runner-up. It was a strong tournament for the Grove Ridgerunners.
The Ridgerunners Varsity and Junior Varsity competed in the 20th Annual Mickey Mantle Tournament Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, April 4 to 6.
Games were played at Mickey Mantle Field in Commerce and Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin.
Each team played three games with the Varsity Ridgerunners playing in the big school Triple Crown division and the JV playing in the smaller Miners division.
The Varsity Ridgerunners went 3-0 and won the tournament while the JV lost to East Newton (Missouri) in the championship game.
Ridgerunner sophomore Chase Coughran was named tournament MVP for his division after going 5-8 with 3 runs scored, 2 runs batted in, and 1 walk.
Two of the Coughran's made were hard hit balls that nearly became hits. The other coaches in the tournament took notice of his consistent, hard contact and knack for getting on base and bestowed upon him the honor of top player.
Two awards given out during the ceremony were based on character traits, rather than athletic ability.
Ridgerunner senior Case Marsh was honored with the Courage Award of the tournament, while McDonald County's Blaine Lemm received the Greatest Teamamate Award. Both awards are given to players who replicate a quality teammate.
Danny Mantle, Mickey Mantle's son, was on hand to present Marsh with his award.
Mickey Mantle always wanted to be remembered as the greatest teammate a player ever had and not for his Triple Crown, three MVP awards, seven World Championships, and 16 All Star selections.
In fact, on the statue of Mantle that sits outside Mickey Mantle Field, the inscription “A Great Teammate” is written.
Eight Ridgerunners were named to the All-Tournament Team. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own players, but only players from other teams so these players were selected by coaches who took note of their performance during the tournament.
The Junior Varsity Ridgerunners named to the All Tournament Team were sophomores Hank Hacker, Gunner Jensen, Cooper Smith, and Wyatt Wall.
The four Varsity Ridgerunners named to the All Tournament Team were senior Jack Gentry, senior Chat Hayes, sophomore Chase Coughran, and sophomore Lane Rutherford.
Each year, the tournament features a special guest. Guests range from Hall of Famers to former teammates of Mickey Mantle.
This year’s guest was Jim Gentile who finished third behind Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in the 1961 MVP voting. Gentile hit 46 home runs that year finishing 15 behind the magical 61 of Roger Maris.
Gentile spoke at the banquet telling stories about Mickey Mantle and his own career. Also present was David Mantle and family, son of Mickey.
The three wins for the varsity Ridgerunners ran their winning streak to seven in a row. The Ridgerunners will travel to Oologah on Monday and will host Oologah on Tuesday. Oologah is 11-9 on the season and 4-4 in district play.
The JV Ridgerunners beat Welch by run rule in their first game of the tournament. Starter Hank Hacker and reliever Jace McPhetridge combined to throw a no-hitter.
In their second game of the tournament, the JV Ridgerunners beat Sarcoxie by run rule.
In the championship game, they were beat 4-2 by East Newton earning second place.
Grove 3, McDonald County 1
Game one of the tournament for the Ridgerunners was played in Joplin on the turf of Joe Becker Stadium.
Senior Jack Gentry started on the mound for the Ridgerunners and threw a complete game earning the win. Gentry gave up 1 run on 1 hit, 6 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Gentry earned a second win over McDonald County on the season.
The Ridgerunners only managed three hits in the game but capitalized on the four walks. They also stole three bases. The Ridgerunners took the lead in the fourth inning and never looked back.
Grove 5, Ft. Gibson 2
Starting Pitcher Lane Rutherford and reliever Logan Engles combined to throw the third Ridgerunner no-hitter of the season. Like Gentry the day before, Rutherford battled his control walking 7 batters.
This is how he gave up two runs in the no-hitter. Rutherford did a solid job working his curveball and fastball combination keeping the Ft. Gibson hitters off balance. Rutherford went 4.1 innings striking out 8.
Engles only went 0.2 innings but earned the save as the time limit expired after the inning.
The Ridgerunners worked two walks and had five hits. They stole two bases and were able to sacrifice a runner to the plate.
Grove 5, Neosho 3
Grove head coach Donny Pennington and pitching coach Drew Osborne matched up against their former school for the first time since leaving Neosho together four years ago.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing,” Osborne said. “On one hand, you want those kids to do well because we’ve both coached them for years and have kept relationships with many of them. On the other, you want to run-rule them and win a tournament championship with authority.”
The Ridgerunners win over Neosho was their 17th of the season and 7th in a row.
Senior Toby Cearley started on the mound and worked his longest outing of the season going 3.0+ innings. Cearley usually works out of the bullpen but got the call to start from Coach Pennington.
Cearley gave up 2 runs, 1 earned run, and gave up 4 hits while walking 5 and striking out 5. Cade Coble came in to finish the game earning a save while throwing just 44 pitches in 3.0 innings.
Coble gave up 1 run, 2 walks, and struck out 2. Coble entered the game in a bases loaded jam with no outs and got two force outs at the plate before a ball squeaked through the legs of catcher Gentry.
The Ridgerunners had 8 hits as a team and earned 4 walks and 1 hit by pitch. Cearley and Coughran both had two hits for the Ridgerunners.