Oak Grove pitchers shut down Blue Springs Elks for sweep, cap it with perfect game

Michael Smith
The Examiner
Oak Grove Post 379 starting pitcher Connor Hernandez throws to a Blue Springs Elks batter in the first game of an American Legion doubleheader against the Blue Springs Elks at Hidden Valley Park. Hernandez shut down the Elks to help Oak Grove to a 9-5 win and Nick Reeves followed with a five-inning perfect game in a 10-0 win as Post 379 swept.

Oak Grove Post 379 manager Jeff Wright admitted that he doesn’t have any pitchers that will blow hitters away with electric pitches. 

He said he has “very smart pitchers that know how to pitch.” 

Connor Hernandez was a good example of that in the first game of an American Legion baseball doubleheader Tuesday. Nick Reeves made it a great example in the second game with a five-inning perfect game.

He tossed six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits, hit three batters and struck out five to lead his team to a 9-5 victory over the Blue Springs Elks at Jim Moran Field at Hidden Valley Park. Oak Grove completed the American Legion baseball doubleheader sweep with a 10-0 rout in the nightcap behind Reeves' no-hitter. 

“He’s been really solid for us all season long,” Wright said of Hernandez. “He does a good job mixing pitches, changing speeds and locations. He was good at striking guys out today. Our defense almost didn’t have to do anything.”

Blue Springs Elks shortstop Kaden Ford, right, leaps to grab a high throw as Oak Grove Post 379's Cole Chaney pulls into second base in the first game of an American Legion doubleheader Tuesday at Hidden Valley Park. Oak Grove swept the Elks 9-5 and 10-0.

Hernandez only allowed a run to score with two outs in the fourth on an error on a ground ball hit by the Elks’ Colton Hughes to second baseman Bryce Smith. That allowed Randy Ayala to score from second base. 

Blue Springs’ other run off Hernandez came in the sixth when Hughes scored on a wild pitch. 

“I thought I threw fine, but it wasn’t my best,” said Hernandez, a starter for Oak Grove High School this spring. “I am a little tired. I have been going through a lot. Our defense made plays and I am proud of the result. 

“I was able to locate my fastball but I left my curve hanging a little.” 

Oak Grove Post 379's Dalton Chaney rounds third to score in the first game of an American Legion doubleheader against the Blue Springs Elks Tuesday at Hidden Valley Park. Oak Grove swept the Elks 9-5 and 10-0.

The right-hander got plenty of run support from his offense as Oak Grove scored six runs in the first two innings. Cole Chaney ripped an RBI double in the first inning before his team put up five runs in the second. He also drilled a two-run double in his next at bat in a second-inning also highlighted by an RBI fielder’s choice from Shayton Wright, an RBI single from Smith and Aden Jones scoring on a double steal. 

“We did really well timing him up early,” Chaney said of facing Hughes, the Elks’ starting pitcher. “We hit him solidly. I got hit but the umpire didn’t call it. I ended up getting an RBI single.” 

Post 379 tacked on two more runs in the fifth following Wright’s RBI groundout and an infield single from Chaney that scored Smith to make it 8-1. 

“It was nice because we struggled in the first few games,” Hernandez said of getting early run support.  

Dalton Chaney had a sacrifice fly in the seventh to make it 9-2 and that was more than enough cushion for Oak Grove to withstand Blue Springs’ three-run seventh inning. 

Smith also had a big day offensively, going 3-for-3 with three runs scored, an RBI and two walks.  

“He was a kid in high school who didn’t get very many at-bats, he was a pitcher only (for Grain Valley High School’s junior varsity team),” Jeff Wright said. “He is so talented. He was a very good pitcher. He’s coming into this season swinging the bat like he had been swinging it all season. He’s been wonderful.” 

Blue Springs Elks runner Trenton Bukaty rounds third to score as Oak Grove Post 379's Cole Chaney watches the play in the seventh inning of the first game of an American Legion doubleheader against the Blue Springs Elks at Hidden Valley Park. The rally fell short as Oak Grove won 9-5 and then completed the sweep with a 10-0 win.

The Elks struggled offensively until the last inning when they scored three runs off Jones, who came in to pitch the seventh. Trey Stone scored on a wild pitch and Brady Lowe and Hughes both had RBI singles. 

Hughes was the losing pitcher but got three hits at the plate. 

“We have been struggling at the plate, but we are starting to come together,” Elks manager Jeff Barnett said. “We haven’t played together very much. We are trying to get a little better as we go.” 

In the second game, Reeves struck out 12 and walked none in his no-hit, no-walk, no-error gem. 

Xavier Hernandez doubled with three RBIs, Smith and Cody Cunningham each doubled with two RBIs, Mason Freece had a hit and two RBIs and Dalton Chaney doubled with one RBI to lead Oak Grove’s run support. 

Post 379 scored four runs in the first inning and six in the second.