Oak Ridge made the most of a rain suspension and defeated Winona 9-3
WINONA, Mo. -- By the time the Oak Ridge baseball team arrived home Tuesday night after its second sectional round win in as many years, the players had spent the better part of 12 hours on a school bus -- half of which were spent knowing they trailed with three innings of the game already played.
It's hard to find things to do to pass that kind of time.
The Blue Jays, it turns out, listened to a lot of county music on the radio and found a song they could sing on their way to a 9-3 come-from-behind victory over Winona.
Oak Ridge trailed 3-1 after three innings Monday when rain caused the game to be suspended.
"We were kind of bummed out that we didn't get to play, but we knew that they were on a roll and it couldn't hurt us," Oak Ridge senior Garret Light said of Monday's delay. "But the three-hour ride was pretty rough on the way."
The ride was smoothed by the country song "Rain is a Good Thing" by Luke Bryan, which depending on your point of view, has a melody and lyrics that are infectious or irritating.
"It's there," said first baseman Kyle Rohde when asked if he'd had trouble getting the tune out of his head. "It's been there all day."
He wasn't alone.
"We've heard that song about a thousand times on the bus ride down here," said Light, who was singing the song on the bench before the Blue Jays' first at-bat was complete Tuesday.
"Now it's our anthem because we played like crap yesterday and came out and jumped on them fast today," Light said.
The Blue Jays scored six runs on four hits and three Winona errors in the top of the fourth inning to take control of the game from the outset of play Tuesday.
"We were like, if we're going to come back let's just jump on them and go home with a win," said third baseman Logan Mangels, whose two-run double highlighted the fourth-inning rally.
Winona sent ace Austin Fisher, who started Monday, back to the mound Tuesday.
"He threw curveballs," Light said. "Like 95 percent of his pitches were curveballs, so we went this morning and hit curveballs from the pitching machine. That helped a lot. We had a little time to prepare after we knew what the pitcher was going to do."
Armed with a 7-3 cushion, Light resumed pitching for Oak Ridge in the bottom of the fourth inning after pitching all three innings Monday.
"I knew I could come back yesterday, but my arm felt good today and I told coach before the game that I could go a few, and when I started getting outs it just felt better and better," Light said.
Light retired the first 11 batters he faced Tuesday before yielding to Brett Thomas with two outs and two runners on base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"Garret Light, good grief," Oak Ridge coach Jason Niswonger said. "Him and Brett Thomas both, they may have a bad game, but when it's on the line those two step up like nobody's business."
And business was what a return trip to Winona was all about for Oak Ridge.
"The attitude and character of these boys, holy cow," Niswonger said. "That's a testament to these guys. We had a hundred excuses to lay down and quit and want this season over after spending 12 hours on the bus.
"They just take care of business. We got here today and it was, 'Take care of business, whatever we got to do, we've got to do it.'"
Oak Ridge will not need a bus today, as it hosts Cooter at 4 p.m. today in a rematch of last season's quarterfinal game.
Thomas, a junior and the Blue Jays' No. 1 starter this season, is expected to get the ball today.
"It's great, but this time we need to come out on top," Mangels said of a second consecutive trip to the quarterfinals, the only two trips the school ever has made. "We're hungry for state. Very hungry."
A trip to the final four would mean a few more games in an Oak Ridge uniform for the senior.
"I'll keep this as long as possible," Mangels said, clutching the front of his jersey with both hands. "As long as possible."
Oak Ridge 9, Winona 3
WP -- Garret Light. LP -- Austin Fisher. 2B -- Logan Mangels (OR). Multiple hits -- Oak Ridge: Kyle Rohde 3-4, Mangels 4-5; Winona: Brett Atkins. Records -- Oak Ridge 13-12.