Oak Grove Post 379 claims walk-off win on balk, improves to 2-0 in Wood Bat Invitational

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Oak Grove Post 379's Cole Chaney (10) reacts after scoring a run during the third inning of an American Legion Wood Bat Invitational pool play game against Jackson Post 158 Thursday at Hidden Valley Park. Chaney's run put Oak Grove ahead 5-4 and Post 379 later won it 6-5 on a balk in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Small ball, persistence and making clutch plays when needed proved to be a boost for Oak Grove Post 379 Thursday. 

Oak Grove improved to 2-0 in the 32nd annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational by overcoming early adversity and rallying for a 6-5 victory over Jackson (Mo.) Post 158 in its second game in pool play at Hidden Valley Park. 

Oak Grove starter Dalton Chaney struck out the first two Jackson batters he faced. But before the inning ended, Post 158 had hit around and scored three runs. 

"The good thing about our team," Oak Grove coach Jeff Wright said, "is that we don't panic. We were down 3-0, but there was a lot of baseball left to be played, and we came back and got a big win to go 2-0 in the tournament." 

Jackson scored a solo run in the top of the second for a 4-0 advantage, before Connor Hernandez scored Oak Grove's first run when he raced home from third base on a wild pitch in the bottom of the second. 

Oak Grove Post 379's Connor Hernandez (16) rounds third on the way to scoring a run during an American Legion Wood Bat Invitational pool play game against Jackson Post 158 Thursday at Hidden Valley Park. Hernandez later scored the winning run on a balk in the sixth inning as Oak Grove rallied for a 6-5 win.

Oak Grove then used two singles and two infield groundouts to score four in the third inning to take a 5-4 lead. Aiden Jones and Cole Chaney had RBI singles and Evan Howard and Hernandez had RBIs on infield grounders. 

Jackson tied the score 5-5 in the sixth, setting the stage for an unusual game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth. 

Hernandez singled and was sacrificed to second by Cody Cunningham. Haiden Armstrong then singled him to third and Hernandez scored the game-winning run on a balk. 

"How about that for an inning?" Wright said with a laugh. "We got the big bunt by Cody Cunningham and we were wondering if Connor might have scored on (Shayton) Wright's ground ball to third. But it was a moot point since he scored on the balk." 

Oak Grove Post 379's Haiden Armstrong (4) beats the throw to the Jackson Post 158 third baseman for a stolen base in their American Legion Wood Bat Invitational pool play game Thursday at Hidden Valley Park. Armstrong had four stolen bases as Oak Grove rallied from a 4-0 deficit for a 6-5 win.

Hernandez's teammates were giving him a hard time for not scoring on the ground ball to third, but he said it all played out with the balk. 

"I'd have never lived it down if we would have lost that game with me on third," Hernandez said. "It's a reaction thing and I didn't want to get thrown out at home. When I scored on the balk, I felt like everyone would just remember that we won." 

Dalton Chaney allowed four runs in four innings and Mason Freece came in and claimed the win with three innings of one-run relief. Freece allowed two hits and one walk. 

"Mason has done a great job for us this season," Jeff Wright said. "He hasn't had a lot of opportunities, but he came in and got the job done today. We score the winning run on a balk, we score two runs on two infield groundouts, we get great pitching after that first inning and we're 2-0 (in the Wood Bat Invitational) after not playing in it for the past seven or eight years. It's a great start and we're looking forward to our next games." 

Cole Chaney finished 2-for-3 with a run. Armstrong had four stolen bases in addition to his hit and RBI. 

Oak Grove is scheduled to play two games Friday to finish pool play. The winners of the five pools and three wild cards advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals. 

Oak Grove Post 379 third baseman Cole Chaney, left, tags out a Jackson Post 158 runner during an American Legion Wood Bat Invitational pool play game Thursday at Hidden Valley Park. Oak Grove rallied from a 4-0 deficit to claim a 6-5 win and a 2-0 record in the tournament.

BLUE SPRINGS ELKS FALL: The Blue Springs Elks made it close again but fell one run short again in a pool play loss Thursday.

The Elks scored two runs in the top of the seventh but couldn't get the tying run across in a 3-2 loss to Omaha (Neb.) C&H Construction at Grain Valley High School.

Trenton Bukaty and Dempsey Graves drew leadoff walks and advanced to second and third on a passed ball after a popout. Another passed ball scored Bukaty and put Graves on third. Trey Stone hit a grounder to score Graves, but C&H Construction got a fly out to end the game.

The Elks managed just two hits by Graves and Brady Lowe.

Bukaty suffered the loss despite surrendering just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits and no walks and struck out four.

C&H Construction scored two runs in the first and added an insurance run in the sixth to withstand the Elks' late rally.

The Elks dropped to 9-17 overall and 0-3 in pool play in the tournament.