Oak Ridge baseball team captures third consecutive district title with win over Ellington

Friday, May 20, 2011
Oak Ridge players celebrate their 6-3 win over Ellington by dumping water on coach Patrick Friga after the Class 1 District 3 title game Thursday at South Iron High School in Annapolis, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

ANNAPOLIS, Mo. -- The Oak Ridge baseball team celebrated its district championship Thursday by drenching first-year coach Patrick Friga with water and then doing something Friga wouldn't allow before the game.

After accepting their trophy, the Blue Jays huddled up and broke on "three-peat" to acknowledge their third consecutive title.

"They kind of wanted to say it at the beginning of the game, but I didn't want to jinx myself," said Friga, who was an assistant for the last two championship teams. "We've been here and we hope to go on. I told them at the beginning of the year, I said we don't lose at Oak Ridge -- and we lost one there -- and I said we don't lose at South Iron, that's our other home."

Oak Ridge (16-5) has played all but one district game over the past three seasons at South Iron High School, which also was the site of the top-seeded Blue Jays' 6-3 win over Ellington on Thursday.

"It's nice," Oak Ridge senior Brett Thomas said. "I mean, at this point, that's what we expected of Oak Ridge. It was a goal, but that was a small steppingstone to what our ultimate goal is. We've reached that step and that's all it is. In the first couple years, yeah, it was nice, but we expect ourselves to come with a district title year in and year out."

Oak Ridge baserunner Brett Thomas dives back to third base as Ellington's Koty Crocker tries to pick him off during the third inning of the Class 1 District 3 title game Thursday at South Iron High School in Annapolis, Mo. Thomas was called safe after Crocker dropped the ball during the tag. (Kristin Eberts)

Junior Jacob Light scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third inning to give Oak Ridge a 1-0 lead despite the Blue Jays not getting a hit in the inning.

That's where the score remained until the fifth inning when Oak Ridge scored five times on four hits. Three of the hits came from the bottom third of the order.

No. 7 hitter Hunter Seyer, No. 8 hitter Kyle Rohde and No. 9 hitter Andrew Puchbauer all got RBI singles off Ellington starter Jared Hathcoat with two outs in the inning.

"That felt awesome," Seyer said. "He threw me a high one up and in, and it kind of got me off the plate a little bit. Then the next pitch he put pretty well right down the middle and I just put my bat on it and put it up the middle for a base hit and got that run in."

Seyer, Rohde and Puchbauer combined for five hits in the game, while the rest of the lineup got just three.

Oak Ridge's Lance Rohde gets a hit during the fifth inning of Thursday's Class 1 District 3 title game.

"I thought we hit him all game," Thomas said about Hathcoat. "The difference was we started hitting with two out in the fifth inning. I mean, we left runners on base the first four innings it seemed like. I think we left a runner on every inning. We could never get that big, two-out hit, and then Hunter Seyer and Kyle Rohde and Andrew Puchbauer all came out with two-out hits. That was big. They were the right person, right spot there, and they came through."

Oak Ridge stranded at least one runner in each inning and 10 in all.

"We were a little nervous at the beginning," Friga said. "Kids weren't jumping on the first-pitch fastball and then we had to tell them to jump on the first-pitch fastball. We finally did it."

Thomas improved to 8-0 this season with a complete-game victory over the Whippets but was touched for a season-high six hits and three runs. Just one run was earned.

Thomas struck out 10, his lowest total since his second start of the season against Charleston.

Oak Ridge's Kyle Rohde scores a run in front of Ellington catcher Dylan Pogue during the fifth inning Thursday.

"I tip my hat to Ellington because they came out with a good plate approach and that was to make contact," Thomas said. "They came up and had short, compact swings and put the ball in play. That's what they had to do, and it worked for them."

The Whippets scored all three of their runs in the sixth inning with the help of three hits and three errors.

"I think I just came out overconfident, thought we had it in the bag," Thomas said. "I wasn't making good pitches. I was just going out there and throwing, and they got the best of me. They put the ball in play and got a couple seeing-eye singles and a couple hard hit balls and there you go. That's three runs for you. You can't do that. You can't leave an inning off."

Thomas struck out Ellington's Tanner McNail to end the inning and then pitched around two hits in the seventh inning to seal the win.

Oak Ridge will host Naylor on Monday in the sectional round.

Oak Ridge's Brett Thomas pitches during the third inning of Thursday's Class 1 District 3 title game.

The Blue Jays have won their sectional game the last two seasons before falling in the quarterfinals to Cooter.

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WP -- Brett Thomas, 8-0. LP -- Jared Hathcoat. Multiple hits -- Ellington: Hunter Hathcoat 2-4; Oak Ridge Hunter Seyer 2-4, Kyle Rohde 2-2. Records -- 16-5.

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