OZARK — In championship games, the opportunities to score are often limited. So the team that takes advantage of those limited chances is the one that takes the title.
Oran took advantage of its chances Tuesday afternoon and posted a 3-0 victory against the St. Elizabeth Hornets in the Class 1 state baseball championship game at U.S. Baseball Park.
"It was tough," St. Elizabeth coach Caleb Heckemeyer said. "When we hit it hard, it was right at them. We couldn't find the holes, it just didn't go our way."
The teams combined for six hits in the game, three for each side. St. Elizabeth's three hits, all singles, were the only balls the Hornets hit to the outfield in the game.
St. Elizabeth starting pitcher Caleb Oligschlaeger got out of a couple of tough situations early.
Ty Johnson of Oran hit a two-out triple to the gap in right-center in the top of the first inning, but Oligschlager got a strikeout to end the frame.
Then in the second, a single and a walk had Oran runners at first and second with one out. Oligschlaeger got out of that with a strikeout and a grounder back to the mound.
St. Elizabeth had a chance to get on the board in the bottom of the third.
Kendal Bax led off with a single to center. After a strikeout, Carson Kesel battled in a long at-bat, fouling off several pitches before drawing a walk to put Hornets at first and second.
But a strikeout and a grounder that resulted in a force play at second ended the potential threat.
That was big because Oran scored two runs in the top of the fourth.
Nick Massey led off with a single to left. Seth Cauble then laid down a bunt and the throw to force out courtesy runner Nolan Leper at second was late.
Oligschlaeger got the next batter on a strikeout. But Conner Kern then bunted and the throw to first was wild as Leper scored and Cauble advanced to third. Carter Huering followed with a ground out to score Cauble to make it 2-0.
"We thought we would get them on the bunt plays, but it just went their way," Heckemeyer said.
It was some tough pitching luck for Oligschlaeger. He went five innings, allowing two runs (no earned) on two hits and three walks while recording seven strikeouts.
"He got in some jams early, but he battled and got out of them," Heckemeyer said. "But the errors got to us that inning."
The Hornets had a chance to get on the board in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Cole Otto and Clayton Holtmeyer hit consecutive singles before Bax was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
But Oran starter Kolten Payne got out of the inning with a grounder to third for a force out. Those were the only two hits Payne allowed in his six innings of work to go along with two walks and four strikeouts.
"Their pitcher threw well," Heckemeyer said.
The Hornets went down in order in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the top of the seventh, Oran added an insurance run off on a wild pitch after St. Elizabeth committed two errors to set up the score.
Bax had a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh. But Johnson, who moved to the mound from shortstop, got the final two outs via strikeout and Oran celebrated winning its second title in the last three Class 1 state tournaments.
Both of the titles came at the expense of St. Elizabeth, who fell 4-1 to Oran in the 2018 title game before winning the 2019 championship with a 2-1 victory against La Plata.
"Second place is a great year," Heckemeyer said. "We thought we would have a chance to defend our title, we just came up short. But I'm very proud of these boys."
Oran ends its season at 24-4, while St. Elizabeth finished with a record of 21-6.
The St. Elizabeth seniors were part of three teams that advanced to a state championship game each year the tournament was played.
"I was hoping to get these seniors out of here with another title, but we're leaving with second and we should be happy about it," Heckemeyer said. "The top four teams in the state are here and we were second-best this year."