The 2018 high school baseball season started with great expectations. The Oran Eagles came into the year ranked number one in the preseason coaches' poll. The team returned six seniors, several whom had started since their freshman year. Add to that, the team that had ended their season the previous three years had graduated its core players.
However, with a pair of losses during the opener, albeit against class three schools on March 17. Then on April 17, the Eagles had perhaps its most embarrassing performance in several years, with an 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Saxony Lutheran Crusaders. The Eagles were 6-5 yet somehow were still ranked #1 in the polls.
There were some highlights during the first month of the season. Probably the most notable occurred on April 6th, on a cold and windy night in Scott City. Oran was the home team on the scoreboard because the game had been scheduled to be played in Oran. The Eagles were trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the 7th. It was 4-3 when, sophomore Kole Simms, who had gotten his first start that evening as designated hitter and the bases were loaded and one out. Simms drilled a 2-2 pitch into right field past a diving first baseman to drive in two and give Oran the walk-off over the conference rival Rams.
As the year continued, the Eagles were Jekyll and Hyde at times.
Head coach Joey Bickngs said this of the turnaround after the first month of the season, "If you would of asked me if we could have won the State Championship around the middle of April I would have told you that you were crazy. We weren't playing good defense or hitting the ball very well. Out pitching was good at times but not what I would call a champion team pitching staff. I remember looking at our stats in mid-April and thinking there is no way a team that is batting .289 at this point in the season would be able to compete for a state championship. Did we have the talent? Yes, we did, but not if they didn't believe in themselves. Something finally clicked with them and we were able to raise our team batting average from .289 to .343. We had several kids raise their batting average by a significant amount. Two of the kids that come to mind are Cole Priggel and Drew Reischman. Cole was batting .262 after we played in the ND Showcase and was able to raise his average to .429. In those 13 games, he had 7 multi-hit games and 16 RBI's with 12 runs scored. Drew was able to raise his average from .324 to .523 and in those games, he had 10 multi-hit games with 6 of them as 3 or more hits. He also had 25 RBI's (Only one game he didn't have an RBI in 13 games) and 19 runs scored. I can't leave out Denver Elfrink as he was also a different person in the playoffs. He batted .350 with 8 RBI's and 7 Runs with 7 hits and all of them coming as extra-base hits. None of them were bigger than the 3 run walk-off home-run he hit against Cooter in the Sectional game.
"Now to our pitching."Bickings continued. " I also felt like our pitching really improved during the same stretch our hitting improved. Layne Johnson threw the best I have ever seen a kid throw during that stretch. He won 6 of his 9 games after April 21st. He had 63 k's in 36.1 innings with only 5 walks and only gave up 1 ER in the 7 games he pitched in. Drew Reischman also got healthy after dealing with a forearm strain. He started the year 0-3 and was able to win his last 4 games he started. In those 4 games, he only gave up 3 ER and had 26 k's in 24.2 innings including a no-hitter in the state quarterfinals against Eminence. Then you can't forget our pitching in the postseason. We only gave up 3 ER in 6 games (.525 ERA) with a .725 WHIP & 57 k's in 40 IP."
Seniors Johnson, Reischman, Clay Sauceda and Priggel were named first-team All-State Johnson as a pitcher, Reischman as an infielder Sauceda as a catcher Priggel go on as an outfielder. The first three were also first-team all-conference Priggel was honorable mention.
Bickings also mentioned, "It is amazing what can happen to a group of talented young men when they start to believe in themselves." What can happen is winning the school's second baseball state title in five years and second team crown in as many years after claiming the class 2 basketball crown in 2017. in the process they ended the season of the three-time defending state champion, Bell City Cubs.
The Eagles graduate six Johnson, Reischman, Sauceda, Priggel, Elfrink and Peyton McVay.
Johnson had a career record of 31-12, 41 starts, seven shutouts, five saves in six opportunities. opponents batted only .205. His ERA was 2.33 and( 1.11 during his senior campaign.)
He batted .309 in 298 career at bats and 121 games. He had 21 doubles and 49 runs driven in.
Reischman was 17-7, on the mound, during his four years. his ERA was 2.29. He had six saves in as many chances. Opponents hit .206.
He had a .489 career batting average, He had 15 home runs and 171 RBI. He struck out only 23 times in 411 career at bats.
He will continue his baseball career at metropolitan community college in Kansas City.
Sauceda finished 6-1 as a pitcher, with a 1.62 earned run average. He posted four saves in four chances. He allowed opponents to bat .188.
The catcher batted, .388 with 12 homers and 140 rbi.
Priggel was 3-0 and allowed a .163 batting average.
He hit .377 with four home runs and 73 rbi. He also had 45 career stolen bases.
Elfrink was 1-0 allowing opponents to hit .125. He was a career.303 hitter with our home runs and 44 RBI.