If you're going to have an off-night, it is best to have it in a non-elimination game.
That was the case for Oneida Wednesday, which saw Grace Christian Academy make the trip to Bear Creek Sports Complex and walk away with a 9-0 win in the Region 2-A final.
On an afternoon featuring a 60 percent chance of rain, and with a tornado watch in effect, surprisingly good weather greeted the regional championship game. The first raindrops did not fall until the teams were walking off the field after the game.
But that was the only thing that went right for the Indians on a night that saw GCA use stifling pitching to hold Oneida's bats in check while keying on several miscues to score runs.
Oneida's hit-happy lineup was limited to six hits by Grace Christian ace Luke Shepherd, who pitched a complete-game shutout.
Meanwhile, the Rams used five unearned runs to supplement their nine hits.
In fact, Grace Christian led 5-0 after three innings, and only one of those runs was earned. That score stood going into the top of the sixth. And Grace's only earned run came after an error that would have produced the third and final out of the second inning.
But after wearing down Oneida pitcher Caleb Lee, who had given up only two hits in three innings after settling in, GCA began to do damage in the sixth, loading the bases and scoring four runs.
Still, GCA had just two hits in the sixth, supplementing the effort with a pair of walks and an Oneida error.
Cole West and Bryant Harper both pitched in the seventh inning, with Harper recording the last two outs.
Oneida saw Grace jump to a 2-0 lead after the first inning, with Taylor Lawson and Chandler Adkins both getting aboard with base hits, then scoring on a two-run single by Shepherd.
GCA scored two more in the second, with Justin Shaw's two-out single sparking a two-out rally that saw runs scored by Shaw and Taylor Lawson, who reached base on an error.
Shepherd was hit by a pitch in the third inning and turned it into an unearned run on a wild pitch.
In the sixth, Tanner Fee, Caleb Walker, Lawson and Adkins all scored runs for GCA. Lawson had an RBI single to score Walker, Fee scored on a wild pitch, and a two-run double by Josh Liford scored the final two runs.
Oneida managed to get runners aboard in every inning but could do nothing with them. Lee singled in the first and third innings, and was hit by a pitch in the fifth. Colby Jeffers had a lead-off double in the second, but was one of three Oneida runners stranded in scoring position in the first three innings. Tanner Sexton singled in the third, while Cage West singled in the fourth and Cole West singled in the seventh. Bryant Harper reached base on a catcher interference call in the sixth.
Despite the loss, Oneida's season remains alive; the Indians guaranteed themselves a spot in the Class A sectionals as one of 16 teams left standing with a 5-3 win over Midway Monday. Wednesday's game only determined the location of Friday's games.
With the loss, Oneida will find itself traveling to face North Greene, which won the Region 1-A final with a 6-0 victory over rival South Greene Wednesday.
North Greene is 30-3 this season and has been consistently ranked. The only losses came to Class AA district champions Sullivan East and Greeneville -- by a combined two runs -- and to Landon (Mary.) in the Cal Ripkin Classic at Myrtle Beach. The Huskies have held 10 of their 33 opponents scoreless, and gave up more than one run just 11 times, including just once after April 12. Their bats have been equally impressive, scoring 10 or more runs 14 times.
However, last year's North Greene team finished with just five regular season losses, and was shell-shocked by Grace Christian in the sectional, 10-3.
Friday's game will be Oneida's first sectional appearance since 1982.