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Examiner
  • Oak Grove tops Eagles for first time since 2006

  • The Oak Grove baseball team took a major step toward winning its first Missouri River Valley Conference West title since 2005 by doing something Friday that hasn’t been done in seven years.

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  • The Oak Grove baseball team took a major step toward winning its first Missouri River Valley Conference West title since 2005 by doing something Friday that hasn’t been done in seven years.
    In the first half of a doubleheader, the Panthers upended Grain Valley 8-1 at Oak Grove High School, besting their rival for the first time since 2006 and ending the Eagles’ two-plus season conference winning streak.
    The Panthers, who are ranked seventh in Class 4, were well aware of Grain Valley’s recent dominance, and it showed early as starter Conner Matson labored through the first two innings. The Eagles, who have captured three consecutive conference crowns, put runners on second and third in the first frame and loaded the bases in the second while working Matson for 47 pitches.
    Both times, however, Matson escaped, coaxing Alex Smith into a groundout and Dillon Parra into a fly out to end the threats.
    “I think we were a little tight right off the bat,” said Oak Grove coach Kirk Sears, whose team fell 7-2 to Pembroke Hill in the day’s second game. “It was one of those situations that we wanted it just a little too much right from the beginning.”
    While the Eagles (1-4, 1-0 conference) seemed the aggressor initially, coach Mark Lyford knew it couldn’t be a good omen to miss big scoring chances against a pitcher like Matson.
    “I thought we did a good job of getting into those opportunities,” Lyford said. “We had some pretty good at-bats, we saw some good pitches, but in those situations we need to at least put some pressure on them and make them handle the baseball a little bit more. That was the disappointing part.”
    From there, Smith ran into trouble on the mound for the Eagles after zipping through the first two innings without allowing a hit. Oak Grove (4-1, 1-0) plated five two-out runs as Levi Harmon drove in a run with a single, Cole Doherty stroked a two-RBI base hit and Seann Baker brought in two more with a double.
    In the fourth, Aaron Graham scored on a wild pitch, Doherty drove in another run with a sacrifice fly and Dakota Hearn lashed a run-scoring single to give the Panthers an 8-0 advantage.
    And after dodging danger in the first two frames, Matson settled in and tossed four perfect innings. He notched the victory by firing a complete game, allowing just two hits, no earned runs and striking out six.
    “I was having some trouble the first couple innings because I was going real fast,” said Matson, who pointed out that the win improved his career record against Grain Valley to 1-5. “I always work fast, but it’s usually just throw the ball, get back on the rubber. Today, the first couple innings I was going real fast through my windup and the last five innings I slowed my windup down a lot and that helped me get under control. I was just in a rhythm.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Jake Kienzler led Oak Grove with a 3-for-3 effort; Doherty finished 2-for-3, drove in three runs and plated another; Harmon went 2-for-3 with a walk an RBI and two runs; Latshaw reached twice, stole two bases and scored and Graham swiped two bags and scored twice.
    The Eagles tallied their only run in the seventh on Ryan Niemann’s pinch-hit double that scored Conner Boisen. Grain Valley leadoff hitter Zack Ehlen drew a pair of walks and Landon Hedrick finished 1-for-3.
     
    “I feel like it should have been closer,” Ehlen said. “It got out of hand pretty much.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC
     
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