By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Get out of school for a baseball game?
That’s just fine with the Fair Grove Eagles.
The Eagles made their time away from class count Friday afternoon at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark.
Fair Grove’s offense erupted for 14 hits and run-ruled Conway, 18-1, in five innings. The Eagles hadn’t played since March 23 due to weather.
“It’s really cool to have administration and teachers who allows us to do this,” said Fair Grove coach Christian Overstreet. “We’re thankful for that. These kids take care of business in the classroom like they’re supposed to, and now they get rewarded for that a little bit.”
Fair Grove was scheduled to host Conway on Friday afternoon, but its field was not suitable for play due to recent rains. Conway also had its Thursday game against Seymour postponed due to rain.
The solution: U.S. Baseball Park’s all-turf field. Former Drury baseball coach Mark Stratton was recently promoted to general manager for U.S. Baseball, and still helps manage the facility.
“I called (Stratton) and said, ‘Hey, we need a place to play,’” Overstreet said. “He said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The Eagles plated six runs on six hits and two walks in the third inning.
Josh Thompson, Brett Tolbert and Rhett Hill each had an RBI triple in the inning. They took advantage of a spacious outfield.
“That’s one of the things we talked about before the game: they’ve got a big outfield with big gaps,” Overstreet said. “You get a triple by how you get out of the box. All three of those guys were really wanting to get a triple out of the box. They were rewarded for running hard, and that’s a good feeling.”
The six-run third inning proved ample run support for Eagles starting pitcher Noah Argenta. The senior righthander struck out nine in four innings, allowing four hits and two walks.
“I filled up the (strike) zone for the most part,” Argenta said. “I didn’t have as much velocity as I usually do, but it still went well.”
Argenta (3-0 overall) has now accounted for three of Fair Grove’s four wins this season. He was one of six Eagles to register at least two hits on the day.
“He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes,” Overstreet said. “He was able to throw his breaking ball in any count. He had a big 2-2 strikeout on a breaking ball… He’s a competitor. He wanted the ball in his hands, came out, and gave us a chance.”
Fair Grove’s Ambrose Broyles went 4-for-5 with four runs and two RBIs. Leadoff hitter Josh Thompson went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and seven-hole hitter Hale Beckley was 2-for-3 with a team-high three RBIs.
“We finally settled in,” Argenta said. “The bottom of our lineup really got us started. Once one guy hit, all the other guys hit, too. Snowball effect.”
Fair Grove tacked on nine more runs in the fifth inning, thanks in part to four walks and three Conway errors. The Bears (2-5) were playing the backend of a doubleheader.
Fair Grove, which returns six all-conference players this spring, opens Mid-Lakes Conference play at 11 a.m. Saturday at Marionville.
Earlier in the day, Seymour defeated Conway 4-3 with a walk-off RBI in the bottom of the seventh inning. The game started at 9 a.m.
Conway and Seymour were already scheduled to be out of school for the Good Friday holiday. Friday was supposed to be a snow makeup day for Fair Grove.
Friday’s early start times were due to a previously scheduled youth baseball tournament taking place later in the day at U.S. Baseball Park.
Seymour improved to 5-0 overall. Seymour hosts Hartville on April 2 and Fair Grove on April 3.
Fair Grove 18, Conway 1 (5 innings)
Fair Grove 0 0 6 3 9 — 17
Conway 0 0 1 0 0 — 1
Hits: Fair Grove 14, Conway 6
Errors: Conway 4, Fair Grove 1