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Oak Ridge baseball team wins its fourth consecutive district title

Friday, May 18, 2012

(Photo)
Oak Ridge senior Kyle Rohde holds the district championship plaque after the Blue Jays’ 12-6 victory.
ANNAPOLIS, Mo. -- The six hitless innings Oak Ridge pitcher Kelby Brown threw in Thursday afternoon's Class 1 District 3 championship proved to be more important than the six runs he and the Blue Jays gave up in the other inning.

The result was a 12-6 victory over top-seeded Ellington and a fourth consecutive district title.

Oak Ridge, the No. 2 seed, built a 7-0 lead before Brown surrendered his first hit of the game to Ellington's Garrett Prince to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning.

Prince quickly was doubled off first base after Oak Ridge shortstop Jake LeGrand made a leaping catch on a line drive. But the next nine Ellington batters reached base, which led to six runs for the Whippets.

"Whenever the sixth run came across, it started getting to me, but I tried to calm myself down, came back and got the last out," Brown said.

(Photo)
Oak Ridge pitcher Kelby Brown throws to an Ellington batter during the Class 1 District 3 championship game Thursday in Annapolis, Mo.
(BRIAN ROSENER ~ Daily American Republic)
Brown walked three batters in the inning, gave up five hits and one error was made behind him.

Oak Ridge coach Seth Fortenberry said Brown was rushing his motion to the plate.

"That's happened before in the season, and I've got to tip my hat to him because it's one of those things when it happens early in the year, it doesn't always go your way," Fortenberry said. "But you want him to at least learn from it and build on it. I think he did that because we had a situation just like that early in the year."

Brown retired Ellington's Jake Rhea, the same batter who hit into the double play, on a fly ball to center to end the inning. And like he had been before that inning, Brown was unhittable the rest of the game.

"My arm was feeling good early on," Brown said. "It was still feeling good throughout the fourth and fifth inning, but then in the fifth inning that's when I really started finding my pitches, so I started having to work backward and throwing the curveball early on. I just couldn't find the zone at that point, but I turned it around, I guess, in the sixth and seventh inning. I just finally found it."

Oak Ridge (11-12) replied to Ellington's rally, which cut its lead to one, with three runs in the top of the sixth inning.

"That's the thing, there's so many different momentum shifts in this game that it's just mentally exhausting," Fortenberry said. "For our guys to stay locked in after giving up six runs in the fifth -- when they came in, I said, ‘Guys, you got to just relax. There's no need to panic. We still have a one-run lead, so let's stay relaxed, let's come in here, work on getting the first guy on base and then we'll go from there.'

"And they did an outstanding job staying focused. That's a time right there when a team can get down and they can just fall apart and they can say, ‘Here it is, you have it.' They did a good job of staying locked in and bounced back."

The double play in the fifth was one of three recorded by the Blue Jays, including a pristine 4-6-3 turn to end the sixth inning.

"We played defense very well behind him today," Fortenberry said. "The double plays were absolutely huge, not only from a defensive standpoint but from a pitch-count standpoint. Obviously when you're at this level of play you don't have as many guys out on the team, so pitching is not that deep. So it's good any time you can keep the pitch count down. The double plays were key in that aspect."

The Blue Jays scored their 12 runs on eight hits and the help of eight Ellington errors. Ten of those runs came against Ellington's Jared Hathcoat, the same pitcher the Blue Jays defeated in last season's title game.

"We tried to work counts deep," Fortenberry said. "We went into the game with the strategy of look fastball, adjust breaking ball with two strikes. Now we saw a lot of fastballs early and were able to get on them, but he also was able to command the plate later in the game. We kind of slowed down. Once he got his pitch count up and started to lose a little bit of command, we were able to take advantage of a few walks."

Oak Ridge third baseman Hunter Seyer was 3 for 4 with two RBIs, while center fielder Ryan Below was 2 for 4 with a walk and two RBIs.

Kyle Rohde was not in the Blue Jays' batting order, a place he customarily occupies, thanks to an injury sustained in Oak Ridge's semifinal win Tuesday.

"There was a passed ball," Rhode said. "I was going to third. Catcher threw the ball down and the third baseman -- I don't know -- just didn't catch it. I was right in the line of it and it hit me right in the face, hit me right in the mouth."

Rohde needed 19 stitches Tuesday night and oral surgery Wednesday morning to repair a broken jaw.

Rohde was told not to drive or play baseball Thursday, but he spent the day lobbying his coach, and more importantly his mother, to let him play.

He eventually talked his way into getting to play left field, although he wasn't able to hit.

"It was awesome," Rohde said about being a part of his fourth district championship in four years. "It was priceless. From not even expecting to play, to come out here and then just having a heck of a game -- these guys are awesome. They came out here and just hit the ball like crazy."

Oak Ridge2023032--1281
Ellington0000600--658

WP -- Kelby Brown. LP -- Jared Hathcoat. Multiple hits -- Oak Ridge: Hunter Seyer 3-4, Ryan Below 2-4; Ellington: Garrett Prince 2-3. Records -- Oak Ridge 11-12.


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