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Oran finishes third, gears up for return trip
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Even after he led the Oran baseball team to a 7-3 third-place win Thursday in the Class 1A state tournament, the thrill of victory was an emotion far removed from Ryne Wood's psyche.
"It's disappointing," Wood said. "It's nice, I guess, but third place sucks."
Wood's pitching and hitting in the third-place win over Sacred Heart of Sedalia was just about as strong as his words.
The junior right-hander hurled a five-hit complete game and drove home three runs with two hits to help Oran (20-5) match its 1999 third-place finish during the Eagles last state appearance.
Mitch Wood, Ryan's father and the Eagles' coach the past 10 years, also coached Oran to a second-place finish in 1998. Since Ryne hoped to deliver his dad a state championship this year, the third-place medal around his neck wasn't the souvenir he wanted to bring back to Southeast Missouri.
"He's already got a third-place medal. I didn't want to get him another third-place," Ryne Wood said. "I want to win him a first-place medal.
"Hopefully we'll come back next year."
With senior outfielder Matt Bucher the only player graduating from this year's squad, the immediate future looks bright for the Eagles. But even the present didn't look bad when the Eagles' first four batters reached safely during a four-run first inning.
Daniel Desmond, Sacred Heart's No. 3 pitcher, struggled with his control early, walking one batter and hitting two in the first inning. Ryne Wood drove home Nathan Seyer with the first run on a double over the left fielder's head. Trey Graviett followed with a double down the left-field line to score Wood. A throwing error and sacrifice fly by Garrett Rolson scored Oran's other two runs to make the score 4-0.
After winning four straight games by the 10-run rule entering the state semifinal, the early offensive display was what the Eagles were expecting before getting silenced by Marion C. Early ace Chris Gerleman in an 8-4 semifinal loss on Wednesday.
"The difference between yesterday and today is an 85 mph fastball compared to about a 75 mph fastball," Mitch Wood said. "That was the difference."
Sacred Heart coach Steven Goodwin hoped the Eagles wouldn't notice the difference between Gerleman and his No. 3 pitcher, but wasn't surprised they did.
"When they see Daniel's pitch from Gerleman's, Daniel's looks like a beach ball when it comes up there," Goodwin said. "I thought since Daniel throws a pretty straight ball - and is a lot slower than" Gerleman - "they'd hit him, but I thought they'd get more than seven runs."
Oran added single runs in the second, fourth and sixth innings, but wasn't able to pull away from the Gremlins (16-5). Seyer was 3-for-3 with a walk and three runs. The junior catcher singled and scored in the second and fourth innings, with Wood driving him home both times to give the Ea-gles a 6-1 lead.
Wood (7-1) fanned seven and walked four on the mound and also got great defense from Seyer, who threw out three baserunners.
Desmond (4-1) pitched all six innings for the Gremlins.
"A week from now we'll feel a whole lot better about this third place, hopefully," Mitch Wood said, "but that's what I like about this bunch.
"They're not overly excited about third place because they were expected to win a state championship. Maybe next year we can improve on that."