Oak Grove sends Fike to first two Zone 2 losses of the season

By Michael Smith
The Examiner
Oak Grove pitcher Connor Hernandez throws to a Blue Springs Post 499 Fike batter in the first game of an American Legion baseball doubleheader Tuesday at Hidden Valley Park. Hernandez threw a five-inning two-hitter in a 13-0 Oak Grove win.

Oak Grove Post 379 pitcher Connor Hernandez said he’s starting to like pitching at Jim Moran Field at Hidden Valley Park. 

Last Tuesday he got plenty of run support and allowed just two runs on three hits and struck out five in a 9-5 win against the Blue Springs Elks. In Tuesday’s game against Blue Springs Post 499 Fike, he was even better. 

Hernandez threw a five-inning, complete-game shutout and allowed just two hits and struck out four in a 13-0 mercy-rule victory. Oak Grove made it a sweep with a 10-6 win in the second game of the American Legion baseball Zone 2 doubleheader. 

“I guess this is a lucky field. I don’t know,” said Hernandez, who only tossed 52 pitches. “I was able to hit my spots today. I wasn’t able to do that last time. 

“I was glad we scored early. (Fike) is pretty good, I heard.” 

The Oak Grove right-hander said he even had better control of his pitches than last week. He kept the Fike hitters off balance with his fastball and curveball.

Oak Grove Post 379's Nick Reeves takes third base as Blue Springs Post 499 Fike third baseman Ty Campbell awaits the throw in Tuesday's game at Hidden Valley Park. Oak Grove won 13-0 and 10-6 to hand Fike its first two league losses of the season.

“I was worried because the gods of baseball are cruel sometimes. You have a good outing the week before then the script will flip on you the next week,” Oak Grove manager Jeff Wright said. “I was worried the laws of baseball might catch up to him, but he did what he did last week. 

“He changed speeds well. He caught them off guard by throwing an off-speed pitch then something even slower on the next one. That’s a good team over there. They are loaded. That says something about Conner shutting them out.” 

Post 499, which entered 12-5 and 6-0 in Zone 2 play this season, had two singles in the first inning but stranded both runners. After Ty Campbell’s hit, Hernandez retired 14 consecutive batters. 

Oak Grove’s offense made things easier for the right-hander. It scored seven runs in the first inning and four in the second. Fike pitchers walked 10 batters in the first two innings, which allowed Oak Grove to put the game away early. 

“We just couldn’t find the plate early in the game tonight,” Fike manager Matt Hagerty said. “Our pitcher (Zach Anderson) has been good this year. He just didn’t have it tonight.” 

The first inning was highlighted by Aden Jones’ two-run single and Nick Reeves’ two-run double. Shortstop Shayton Wright had a two-run single in the second and finished 3-for-3 with three runs and two RBIs. 

Oak Grove's Aden Jones dives back into second base safely ahead of the tag by Blue Springs Post 499 Fike second baseman Brett Stewart (2) in Tuesday's game at Hidden Valley Park. Jones and Oak Grove claimed 13-0 and 10-6 wins.

“I just went out there trying to do my best for my pitcher who was dealing on the mound,” Shayton Wright said. “We were being patient and making sure we got our pitch.” 

Oak Grove added two more runs in the fifth on run-scoring singles from Jones and Caden Cunningham. Post 379 had an offensive explosion despite missing two of its best hitters in Cole and Dalton Chaney, who were away on vacation. 

“Our guys were patient and did what they needed to do to get on base,” Jeff Wright said. 

In the 10-6 win in the nightcap, Oak Grove (9-5, 9-5 Zone 2) erupted for five runs in the first inning on a Brody Armstrong double and RBI singles from Evan Howard, Mason Freece and Cody Cunningham as 11 batters went to the plate. 

Fike (12-7, 6-2) rallied for four runs in the top of the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 8-5. Jacob Rehkow hit a leadoff solo home run. After a pair of walks, Campbell delivered a two-run double and Spencer Chase drove him home with a double. But Aden Jones took over for Nick Reeves on the mound and got a strikeout, a line out and a fly out to escape the threat. 

Oak Grove tacked on two runs in the fifth on Howard’s RBI single and an error. 

Howard finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, Jones had three hits and a run and Cunningham had two RBIs. 

Jones earned the win in relief, allowing two hits, one walk and one run in four innings. 

Chase finished with two hits and two RBIs and Rehkow totaled two hits for Fike, which hurt itself with five errors.