By the time Monday’s season opener got to the seventh inning, Oak Grove senior pitcher Garret Pemberton was tired.
That’s because he was on his seventh inning of work on the mound against William Chrisman in pool play of the Raytown Schools Tournament. While he wasn’t dominant, Pemberton was effective.
He tossed a complete game and allowed just one unearned run on five hits and struck out one. To add to his stellar game, he hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh against reliever Lucas Alfrey to propel Oak Grove to a 2-1 win Monday at Raytown High School.
“First game of the season, it was definitely tough on my arm,” Pemberton said. “I was getting tired at the end. I was slowing down, but I got some easy outs. I made the other team pop up and ground out.
“The big thing with our coach is pitching to contact and lowering our pitch count. Not going for strikeouts, but trying to get the hitters to groundout or pop out.”
In the final inning, Panthers catcher Brody Armstrong reached first base on an error and stole second base on a close play. With one out, Pemberton drilled a single past Chrisman third baseman Matthew Miller to score the winning run.
“I was just waiting on a fastball,” Pemberton said. “He hadn’t thrown a curveball, I was looking for a fastball.”
Panthers first-year head coach Jeremiah Biggar surely was pleased with Pemberton’s workmanlike effort.
“It was pretty cool to see Garret coming in as a senior and getting seven innings and getting the game-winning hit,” Biggar said. “The biggest thing for him was he threw strikes. He used his fastball and let his defense work.”
Chrisman had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh when pinch hitter Andru Campos blasted a two-out double off the left-field wall, which was just a few feet away from a home run. However, shortstop Fausto Montero grounded out to end the inning.
“I believe we got ourselves out swinging at 2-0 pitches out of the zone,” Chrisman coach Miles Shelton said. “We were chasing everything else but the fastball right down the middle.”
The Bears’ only run came in the second inning when Brennan McGraw singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, reached third after a dropped fly ball off the bat of senior Taylor Perry and scored on Connor Yeisely’s sacrifice fly.
The Chrisman defense made some spectacular plays throughout to keep the tied. In the third, Montero tracked down a ball that nearly got through the left side and fired the ball to first baseman Jordan Mabie, who made the pick for the out.
Later in the inning, however, Brenden Marsh drilled a fastball to deep right field, just inside the foul line. He tested right fielder Dawson Herl’s arm as he rounded second base. The Chrisman infielders couldn’t track down the throw as it rolled to short left field. Marsh got a triple and scored on the error to tie it at 1.
“I was just trying to make a play for my boys,” Marsh said. “I was trying to get us back in the game. I saw the cutoff was off and coach was trying to hold me up, and I said, ‘No. I am scoring and tie this game up and get us back in this.’”
Oak Grove then had the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth with no outs when Marsh hit a line drive to right that Herl caught. He fired a laser to home plate to nab Hayden Triplett at home to keep the game tied.
In the sixth, Miller tracked down a dribbler down the third-base line off the bat of Colton Kinzel. He fired it to first and Mabie made another great pick for the out.
“I am proud of them. I just got done telling them that,” Shelton said. “We played pretty good defense for being on the field for the first time.”
Even with all the spectacular plays on defense, an error cost the Bears in the seventh.
“We had two errors and one cost us the game. But we will get better,’ Shelton said.
Chrisman ace Seth Gossett tossed a gem as he went four innings and allowed one run on one hit and struck out eight. Miller led Chrisman with two hits.