Oak Grove Post 379 rallies from early deficit to advance in Zone 2 Tournament

By Michael Smith
Special to The Examiner

Oak Grove Post 379 manager Jeff Wright admitted he was “a little worried” heading into Wednesday’s first-round matchup against Kansas City Teamwork Sports in the American Legion Zone 2 Tournament. 

Oak Grove, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 7-seeded Teamwork Sports in all four of their matchups during the regular season. Wright said, “It’s hard to beat the same team five times.” 

It looked like Wright’s worries were justified after a pair of errors led to an early 3-0 lead for Teamwork Sports after the top of the second inning. 

Oak Grove rebounded to score 13 unanswered runs as the offense exploded in a 13-3 mercy-rule victory in six innings at Hidden Valley Park’s Jim Moran Field. 

“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, it’s extremely difficult to beat a team five times,” Wright said. “I was a little worried the baseball gods would catch up to us.” 

Oak Grove (22-8-1) moves on to the winners’ bracket semifinals and will face St. Joseph Post 11, which defeated the Blue Springs Elks 11-4 Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Jim Moran Field.  

The Oak Grove offense has been strong all season, averaging 9.1 runs per game. That continued Wednesday, but not before Teamwork Sports grabbed a lead. 

An infield throwing error after a bunt single by Karter Murdock led to two runs for Teamwork Sports. Gavin Hutchison’s RBI groundout made 3-0 after the top of the second inning. That’s when the Oak Grove offense took over. 

Connor Hernandez smacked a two-run double to the wall in left-center field and Brody Armstrong drilled a two-run single that took a high hop off the mound to highlight a five-run bottom of the second inning to give Oak Grove the lead for good. 

“That was great resilience on our part to get five runs right back,” Wright said. “We had a lot of good swings today.” 

Cole Chaney, who finished 4-for-4 with two RBIs, added an RBI single in the third inning to make it 6-3. 

“I was seeing the ball really well today,” Chaney said. “I got to use the bat I wanted today. We had a teammate today that usually doesn’t come and he brought his bat. I got to use it and it worked out.” 

Oak Grove added four more runs in the fourth. Aden Jones, who was 3-for-3, lined an RBI single to center and an error on the same play allowed Armstrong to score from first base. Chaney knocked in another run on a pop fly that was missed by Teamwork Sports’ shortstop for another run-scoring hit. Xavier Hernandez capped it with a sharp line drive single to center field to make it 10-4. 

“That second inning kind of got away from us, but other than that, I felt pretty good,” Jones said. “These guys do a good job of staying focused and playing ball.” 

After Dalton Chaney’s RBI grounder made it 11-3 in the fifth inning, bases-loaded walks from Shayton Wright and Armstrong ended the game in the sixth. 

“Our one through nine is solid, and we don’t strike out often,” Cole Chaney said. “We put it in play. That’s all you can ask for really.” 

Jones pitched the first three innings and allowed three earned runs. From the fourth inning on, Oak Grove allowed only one base runner on a hit by pitch from Nick Reeves, who pitched a five-inning perfect game earlier in the season against the Elks. He ended up getting the win as he tossed two scoreless innings and struck out five batters. 

“Nick has been amazing,” Jones said. “He’s been dealing every time he is on the mound.” 

Cody Cunningham struck out two in a 1-2-3 seventh inning to finish off the win. 

Oak Grove now turns its attention to St. Joseph Post 11, a team that beat Post 379 in three out of four games in the regular season and made it to the semifinals of the American Legion Wood Bat Invitational two week ago. 

“They are a very good team,” Jeff Wright said of Post 11. “We have our work cut out for us.” 

ST. JOSEPH POST 11 11, BLUE SPRINGS ELKS 4: The sixth-seeded Blue Springs Elks slipped into the losers’ bracket with an 11-4 loss to No. 3 St. Joseph Post 11 in their first-round game Wednesday at Hidden Valley Park. 

The Elks hurt themselves with six errors as St. Joseph scored seven unearned runs to advance to the winners’ bracket semifinals against Oak Grove Post 379. 

Blue Springs tied it 1-1 with a run in the top of the second inning but St. Joseph scored two in the bottom of the third to regain the lead. 

After the Elks made it 3-2 in the top of the fourth, St. Joseph exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the fourth to take control. 

The Elks finished with only two hits by Cade Zucca and Kaden Ford but drew nine walks. Zucca and Patrick Maloney had RBIs for Blue Springs. 

The Elks (9-19) drop into the losers’ bracket and meet Kansas City Teamwork Sports at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in an elimination game.