"Our kids love to play in front of a big crowd with something on the line," said Sikeston coach Kevin Self. "I could tell when we got here, we were focused and ready to play. When our kids come that way, I don't have to worry about them. I just say, 'Go get 'em.'"
And go get 'em, they did.
The Bulldogs pounded 15 hits, six for extra bases including two home runs, in the mercy run-rule shortened five-inning title game.
A three-run first-inning rally, ignited by senior stalwarts Blake DeWitt and Jacob Priday, vaulted Sikeston to the early lead. Priday's double scored DeWitt, who had ripped a two-out single, with the initial run, then Nathan Eaves RBI single plated Priday. Eaves, also a senior, later scored on Richard Landers' basehit.
"These seniors are a special group," said Self. "They've set the bar pretty high."
Sikeston kept the pressure on with three more runs in the second and two in the third, and it appeared the rout was on. A scoreless fourth inning preceded a two-run Notre Dame fifth, which closed the gap to 8-2.
But Sikeston's bats reawakened with five no-out runs in the bottom of the inning to close out Notre Dame and record the second win in three meetings with their district rival.
In the fifth with senior Scott Keenan aboard, Lance Rhodes, also a member of that talented senior class, bashed a two-run shot to straightaway centerfield to send Sikeston ahead 10-2. Following singles by DeWitt and Priday, Eaves' walk-off three-run blast to left-centerfield ended it.
Said Self, "Our bats are starting to come together. Actually, our bats woke up about the fourth inning of the Scott City game (played earlier on Tuesday) and carried over right into here. I hope this is a prelude of what's coming the next two weeks."
Three Bulldogs, DeWitt, Priday and Eaves led the impressive offensive showing with three hits apiece. Rhodes collected two.
DeWitt, the starter and winner, picked up his 25th straight high school win on the four-hit, route-going effort. The defensive gem of the game was a tremendous catch by centerfielder Eaves in the fourth inning. On a long drive appeared headed for the gap in left-centerfield, Eaves sprinted to his right and made a lunging, tumbling grab to rob the Notre Dame hitter. "He's got good wheels," said Self. "He actually outran that ball. That was a big play."
The championship game capped a doubleheader for both teams, each having played regularly scheduled games earlier in the day.
Sikeston used two home runs by Eaves to beat Scott City 13-0 in a five-inning mercy run-rule contest, while the Notre Dame Bulldogs defeated St. Vincent of Perryville 6-4.
Jackson topped Dexter in the third place game 6-3.
Putting the unprecedented third straight title in perspective, Self said, "There are ten quality teams in our conference and to win this thing three years in a row will be difficult to match."
He added, "This is a good win for our program. Our kids are really starting to smell it, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with districts coming up quickly."
Sikeston (18-1) has three regular-season games remaining, prior to the start of the district tournament on Monday, May 17.
The Bulldogs host Clearwater on Friday at 4 p.m.