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Bulldogs pound Dexter 14-2

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

(Photo)
Sikeston's Richard Landers, left, tosses a throw to first base.
DEXTER - Leave it to wood bats to help the Sikeston Bulldogs baseball team break out of a season-long hitting slump.

Well, a slump by Sikeston's standards. For a team that is accustomed to breaking the 10-run barrier, it had happened zero times heading into the weekend's wood bat tournament.

The Bulldogs busted out with 13 runs on Friday and, in their first game with aluminum bats, Sikeston posted their biggest offensive day of the season, defeating Dexter 14-2 on Monday at East City Park on a cold, windy day.

"Considering the conditions, this was our best hitting day of the season," said Sikeston head coach Kevin Self. "It's cold, damp, windy. We really hit some seeds today."

In perhaps their most complete game of the season, the Bulldogs (10-0, 5-0 SEMO Conference) looked like the No. 2 ranked team in Class 3.

"They've got one of the best top of the lineups in Southeast Missouri if not the state," said Dexter head coach Brian Becker. "Our pitchers pitched from behind for the most part and you can't do that against a team that's that good. We paid the price for it."

Sikeston broke out with four runs in the top of the first and put the game away with a six-run fourth inning, all with two outs.

In the first, a Blake DeWitt single drove in Scotty Keenan. Two batters later, Nathan Eaves cranked a three-run home run to right centerfield to lead 4-0.

"As long as we're putting it in play and making them have to field it, I like our chances," said Self. "Especially in a ballpark like this, where it's small. Because if we get a hold of one, it'll get out of here. That set the tone early."

In the top of the second, Keenan doubled and scored on a Lance Rhodes single to make it 5-0, which chased Dexter starter Garrett Williams from the hill.

Williams, lasted only 1 2/3 innings, allowing five runs off five hits and two walks. Williams, who isn't one of the Bearcats' top pitchers, got the call in an effort to try to thwart the Bulldogs' timing at the plate with offspeed pitches.

"It was a gamble for me to start Garrett and it didn't pay off," said Becker. "He's a kid that throws slow, slower and slowest, and then he throws a changeup. I think if he would've thrown strikes on a consistent basis then obviously he would've done better. But we didn't do a lot of things well today. We didn't field behind the pitcher either."

The Bearcats (4-2, 2-1 SEMO Conference) cut the lead to 5-1 on Nolan Pixley's run-scoring single, but the wheels came off for Dexter in the top of the fourth.

After retiring the first two batters, pitcher Michael Lambert booted a ground ball right back to him, keeping the inning alive. Rhodes then came up with a triple to score Keenan. DeWitt followed up with a monster home run to right centerfield to extend the lead to 8-1.

But the damage wasn't done. Cullen DeHart added a two-run double and Richard Landers had a run-scoring double to extend the lead even further at 11-1.

The Bearcats did score one more run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 11-2, but Sikeston put the mercy rule in effect in the top of the fifth with three more runs.

After getting the four first-inning runs, Self was happy to see his team keep pouring it on, something they haven't done much of this season when scoring runs early.

"I told them that Dexter was capable of coming back," said Self. "They opened up with six runs in one inning with two outs against Notre Dame, so I know they can score runs.

"They put it in play with some authority today, but they were right at us and we made some good plays. We played well defensively. Blake made some good plays. Richard made some good plays at third. Nathan made a heck of a catch to end the game."

And while Sikeston's bats were red-hot, junior pitcher Ross Merideth was pitching well. He got the win, throwing all five innings and allowing two runs off four hits. He struck out two and walked none.

"He throws a lot of intrasquad games against our team," said Self.

"And when you have to pitch against our lineup, it prepares you for other teams we face. Chances are, you can get a lot of other people out too. Even with a cold day like today, he threw strikes. And we need that. We need Ross to be able to step up and throw."

Dexter's lack of offensive production was something that Becker didn't expect to happen.

"When we played Notre Dame last week we won that game largely in part by being aggressive at the plate," said Becker. "Our first batter gets up there, takes three pitches and strikes out. We wanted to go down swinging, and Merideth just made good pitches. It's too bad we hit the ball right at DeWitt a lot of times and when you do that, it's going to be an out with his range and his ability. We took one on the chin today but we'll bounce back."

Sikeston was led by DeWitt's 3-for-4 day with four RBIs and three runs.

Rhodes added three hits with two RBIs and two runs. Eaves had two hits with four RBIs and two runs.

Keenan reached base four times and scored four runs.

Sikeston will host East Carter today at 4 p.m. Dexter will travel to Twin Rivers tomorrow at 4 p.m.