Oran softball makes early-season statement with big win over defending district champ Scott City
ORAN, Mo. -- It may be early in the season, but it's never too early to make a statement.
In a rematch of last year's Class 1 District 4 district championship -- and perhaps a preview of this year's -- Oran softball let loose a warning shot on Monday evening, making it clear it's not looking to play second fiddle in 2017 as it dusted reigning district champ Scott City 10-0 in five innings at Oran High School.
The Rams (1-1) have won three straight district titles, but the Eagles (1-0) went toe-to-toe with them last season, despite twice coming out on the wrong side of the result.
This time around Oran flipped the script, and with surprisingly little drama.
"Scott City is our main rivalry. There's no question about it," Oran coach Jim Eftink said. "After those two games last year, the girls were determined to come out and do a better job this year, and I think they did. They hit, they ran the bases well. We need to work on our fielding a little bit and we need to get some bunts down, but other than that we had a pretty solid game."
Scott City had two runners in scoring position in the first inning, but failed to capitalize, and that haunted the Rams the rest of the way, as they didn't move another runner into scoring position until the fifth inning.
And as the bats were quiet, the defense also had shaky moments, whether it was with physical errors or mental hesitance that turned problematic.
In the end, it was too much for the Rams to overcome, leaving them looking decidedly unlike themselves.
"It's hard to put a finger on. There's so much it's hard to filter out," Scott City coach Lance Amick said. "First thing, you've got to tip your cap to Oran. They just came out and pounded us. There's no way around that. We've got a lot of getting better to do, but the good thing about it is the sun will come up tomorrow and we've got a long season ahead of us. Some of the best lessons in the world are hard ones, and hopefully we can take that and spin it into something positive.
"At the end of the day it comes down to I'm responsible for having these girls ready, and today we weren't ready to play, for whatever reason. That's the thing that myself and [assistant coach Mark] Dannenmueller have to figure out. At the end of the day, I don't think that score's an indication of how that game should have played out. ... It was just one of those old-fashioned, take you out to the woodshed and beat your down for about an hour."
Oran's Leah Cauble was 2-for-3 with a double, two runs driven in and two scored for the home team, Jessie Long was 3-for-3 with four RBIs and leadoff hitter Sydney Kern went 2-for-2, scored twice and reached base in all four of her plate appearances.
Eagle freshmen made their impact felt as well, with Kaylee Payne going 2-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and a pair driven in; pitcher Samantha Welter may have been most impressive, as she held Scott City scoreless on just four hits, striking out five and walking three.
The Rams averaged eight runs a game a season ago, and were held to one run just twice: once by Class 1 quarterfinalist Kennett and once by two-time Semoball Awards Softball Player of the Year and Missouri state pitching legend Taylor Tiffany of Portageville (a final four team in the 2015-16 fall season).
Welter shut them out in her first-ever varsity game.
"Sam, she showed me a lot," Eftink said. "She's a trooper. She went out there and got in a little jam in the first inning and worked out of it. She doesn't panic out there. There were a couple of balls hit right to her and she made the play. She got that force out at second where a lot of pitchers would have just gone to first. She's got a good head on her shoulders, she's very talented, she mixes her pitches well and in two or three years she could be one of the more dominant pitchers in Southeast Missouri. I mean, the dominant pitcher, if she puts her mind to it."
Last year's freshman standout, Kaileigh Dirden, opened the game for Scott City with a walk, and Jamie Glastetter singled with one out to put two on. A ground out moved both into scoring position, but Welter got Rylee Venable looking to end the inning unharmed.
"We had second and third there in the first inning ... with your big hitters coming up, and you'd like to think that you could score in that position," Amick said. "When it came down to it, we didn't, and I don't think we had a runner past second until the fifth inning. Tip your cap to Oran. Whatever the reasons, their pitcher had our number today."
Oran started quickly on offense, as Kern led off the bottom half of the first with a walk before Payne reached on an infield single and Cauble doubled in both of her teammates for a quick 2-0 lead.
Long then singled Cauble home for a 3-0 edge after one inning.
Mackenzie Graviett led off the second inning with a double for the Eagles, and with two outs Jessie Long and Claire Ramsey each drove in a runner -- the second of which scored on a bang-bang fielder's choice play the umpire called safe.
Up 5-0 after two, Oran took advantage of an error early in the third inning and tacked on another four runs, then plated two more in the fourth with some help of a wild pitch and another error.
"This group of girls, the top six of that order is pretty tough, and then there's the bottom of the order that can surprise some people," Eftink said. "And we've got some speed and that always help. We've got four girls in that lineup who are quick as lightning. ... On [the base paths], I'd hate to have to play against us when we get some of those girls on."
With three outs left for Scott City to extend the game in the top of the fifth, Welter came through against the top of the Rams lineup, including whiffing Dirden and getting Glastetter to pop out to short.
Glastetter took the loss in the circle for Scott City, giving up 10 runs -- just three earned -- on 11 hits with five strikeouts and three walks.
Buckner was 2-for-3 in the batter's box for the Rams.
Oran showed no hangover from its recent run to the state tournament in basketball -- six of the starting nine for the Eagles are on the basketball team.
Despite practicing for the first time less than a week ago, Eftink was not worried.
"I did (worry) until the first practice and I saw them and how enthusiastic they were," the coach said. "Those basketball players are a special group of girls and they're ready for anything at any time. They would have been ready for the first game Tuesday after our first practice.
"Those basketball players are hungry because they went to state and that helped them. They got a lot of experience, but it left them hungry and they wanted to come out and do something in softball."
Scott City defeated Oran 4-2 in last season's opener and then downed the Eagles in the district final, 7-6. Each team returns seven starters for this campaign. More of those nip-and-tuck battles were expected this season, with the two schools front-runners in the district again.
"Don't take this win for granted," Eftink said. "They'll be back. They're a good team. They've still got Glastetter, Dirden, Buckner -- they can all hit. I mean, they're good hitters. To beat them, you're going to have to work your butt off. Our girls came out on top today but if they break that open in the first inning, who knows what happens. They're a good team."
WP -- Samantha Welter. LP -- Jamie Glastetter. 2B -- Kaylee Payne (O), Leah Cauble (O), Mackenzie Graviett (O). Multiple hits -- Oran: Sydney Kern 2-4, Kaylee Payne 2-4, Leah Cauble 2-3, Jessie Long 3-3.
- Photos from the game (03/20/17)