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Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

Bulldogs drop first game, 5-3

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

(Photo)
Bryce Wibbenmeyer
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- The Sikeston Bulldogs' baseball team dropped their first game of the season in a 5-3 loss on Tuesday.

It was just a non-conference, regular-season, pre-tournament tuneup game. No big deal. Right?

Well, all those things are true with one small proviso. The team Sikeston fell to is Cape Girardeau Notre Dame.

The intensity of this heated rivalry makes every game important.

Said Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett, "Any time you knock off Sikeston…they're such a huge program, they hadn't been beaten yet, they're ranked No. 1 in the state…it's a great win for our program."

And it likely will not be the final meeting between these two baseball powers.

Sikeston (14-1) and Notre Dame (11-4), both nicknamed Bulldogs, will probably tangle in the upcoming SEMO Conference Tournament, which opens on Thursday, as the No. 1 and 2 seeds. It could very well be the championship game on Monday as Sikeston will likely draw the top seed on the strength of its 7-0 conference mark, while Notre Dame at 6-2 will probably be seeded second.

Sikeston seeks its third straight tournament championship. Then there's the district tournament. Sikeston certainly hasn't forgotten last year's district final loss to Notre Dame, which derailed its state title hopes.

So, obviously, when these two teams meet it's more than just a game.

On this day, Notre Dame simply outplayed Sikeston.

"We deserved to get beat," said Sikeston coach Kevin Self. "We didn't execute. They executed today and we didn't." Three costly errors hurt Sikeston's chances.

Two consecutive miscues put Notre Dame runners at first and second with no outs prior to back-to-back RBI singles by Matt Wulfers and Blake Urhahn to vault the home team to an early 2-0 lead.

Sikeston closed the gap to 2-1 with a run in the second inning. Clean-up hitter Jacob Priday was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then scored on John Bizzell's single.

Notre Dame added a single run in the third when Wulfers crossed the plate on a two-out RBI single by Tony Longman.

Sikeston came roaring back to tie the score at 3 with two fifth-inning runs. With two outs, centerfielder Lance Rhodes doubled to left field. Blake DeWitt, the Bulldogs leading hitter coming off a two-homer day yesterday, was hit by a pitch. Both crossed the plate on Priday's two-base blast to the base of the left-centerfield wall at the 350-foot marker.

In the Notre Dame half of the fifth, another Sikeston error was key.

A scratch infield single, a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases. After a lengthy mound conference, Self chose to stick with his starter, junior Bryce Wibbenmeyer.

"Bryce has been throwing really well and I wanted to see how he handles the pressure," said Self. "It was a good experience for him and I thought he handled it really well. Had we made a play or two, it could have been a different ballgame."

The tiebreaking run scored on a sacrifice fly by Dane Balsmann, then, on the relay throw, Wibbenmeyer, the cutoff man, overthrew the third baseman on a tag play, allowing the runner to scamper home with a big fifth run.

With the score at 5-3, Sikeston mounted another charge. DH Cullen DeHart drew a four-pitch walk. After a deep flyout to right field, Bizzell doubled into the right-field corner to put runners on second and third.

The next batter Brad Deere lofted a flyball to right field, which appeared deep enough to score pinchrunner Matt Limbaugh from third base. However, the throw from Notre Dame rightfielder Urhahn to catcher Balsmann arrived a split second before a sliding Limbaugh for the third out, thwarting the Sikeston threat.

Wibbenmeyer pitched well, as did Notre Dame's Lee Essner. Wibbenmeyer allowed two earned runs on six hits in five innings of work, while Essner went the distance, allowing seven hits. Rhodes relieved Wibbenmeyer in the sixth with a 1-2-3 inning.

Priday had a perfect 2-for-2 day at the plate with two RBI, while Bizzell went 2-for-3 with one run batted in. Rhodes also collected two hits in four trips and DeWitt added a single safety.

Wulfers led Notre Dame with two singles.

"I still feel we're in good shape," said Self. "We're fine. We didn't play very well today. It's tough to stay on top; we get everybody's best."

Sikeston will meet the winner of the New Madrid County Central/Scott City game at Notre Dame Field on Friday at 4:15 p.m. in its SEMO Conference Tournament opener.