By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
(Hollister, Mo.) Hollister came into the Class 4 District 11 semifinals as heavy underdogs to No. 1 seed Aurora. The Tigers lost to the two-time defending Class 4 state champion Houn’ Dawgs by an 11-2 margin in the regular season.
None of that history mattered on Monday, as the Tigers defended their home field and upset Aurora 5-2.
The Tigers were led by senior Garrett Moody’s complete game performance on the mound and sophomore Layton Morgan’s two-run home run. Senior Logan Armitage started off with an error in the first inning, allowing Aurora to have runners on first and third with no outs. The Houn’ Dawgs could only manage one run as Armitage and the rest of his Tigers stayed calm.
“Amazing, I can’t even describe it with words,” said Armitage. “In the first inning, I had an error in the field and they had a runner on first and third, no outs, and we picked it up. We got a guy in a ‘pickle’, got him out, and then we just ground it out, only gave up one run.”
Aurora held onto a one-run lead until the third when sophomore Layton Morgan led off with a walk. The Tigers loaded the bases when Colby Teaster drove in one with a base hit. Rylan Newell drew a bases-loaded walk and Avery Weber had another base hit, giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Aurora starting pitcher Jay Lee pitched his way out of trouble to end the inning but the damage had been done.
Armitage led off the top of the fifth inning with a line drive to the third baseman, which was booted, putting a runner on for Morgan’s homerun. Morgan hit a 2-0 pitch to deep centerfield, putting the Tigers up, 5-1.
“Technically, I’m supposed to take on a 2-0 count, but he tells me if it’s something I can drive a ways just turn and burn on it,” said Morgan. “That’s what I tried to do. Honestly, when the centerfielder jumped, I thought he caught it and then everyone starts cheering. The ball didn’t look like it went over but I guess it did so I just started rounding the bases and everyone was standing up.”
Aurora drew two walks in the fifth inning, but Armitage settled his pitcher down and made two plays behind him. They were now six outs away from defeating the number one team in the state. Moody was determined to finish the game on the mound.
“Everything I threw came alive tonight,” said Moody. “There was no chance I was coming out of the game. The coaches told me that if somebody got on, they were pulling me but the coaches let me have it. I was pretty happy about that. They didn’t hit the ball hard off me all night. I was just throwing strikes, working the zone, throwing my curveball when needed when my fastball got out of control. With three outs to go I was just shaking in the dugout, I just kept smiling. I just had to tell myself to stay confident and stay cool. The coaches kept me where I needed to be.”
In the sixth inning, Aurora put runners on first and third with two outs but Moody induced a fly-out to centerfield, ending the threat. They were now three outs away from the win.
The seventh inning saw Aurora put a runner on but Moody forced a pop out to Armitage. Then Aurora’s last chance hit a ground ball back to Moody, who threw to first for the third out. The upset was complete.
First-year head coach Trent Oxenreider could not be more proud of his young Tigers.
“It feels amazing; I’m very proud of our kids and their effort,” said Oxenreider. “One thing we’ve done all year is we compete. We really don’t worry too much ‘who’ it is, we worry about what we do and what we try to do as a program. Armitage has come a long way, he really struggled early in the year. You put one of your best athletes, if not your best athlete, at short and say ‘here you go’. He’s never played short, he played three years at third base and we didn’t have a shortstop and we said let’s go. Moody, I’m super proud of him. There was one point when we might have taken him out and then we said we’re going to ride him until he can’t go anymore. We haven’t had a guy throw seven innings all year, so very proud of him. He held the No. 1 team in the state to one run and four hits. We try to keep Layton Morgan a secret but I think most people know about him. He has 43 RBIs this year as a sophomore hitting in the three hole. There were six sophomores playing tonight. Our pitcher is a senior but he’d never had any varsity experience on the mound until this year. This season has been awesome, we kind of went through a little stretch where it was tough on us and then our kids responded and we are playing really good baseball right now.”
Hollister will take on Springfield Catholic at 6:00pm on Tuesday for the Class 4, District 11 title.
Hollister 5, Aurora 1
Hollister 000 320 0 — 5
Aurora 100 000 0 — 1