One day after having their bats silenced like never before in a semifinal loss to Ozark, the Bulldogs broke out in a big way against Grain Valley, pounding out 16 hits and jumping out to a 9-0 lead after two innings.
The Bulldogs were out-scored 7-2 in the final five innings but the Eagles never got closer than three runs.
"I was really proud with the way they finished because you come up here with the expectations to win a state title and then we came up one run short," said Sikeston coach Kevin Self. "You could easily roll over and take a beating. But I tip my hat to Grain Valley because we jumped on them with both feet and they responded and battled their way back and made a game of it. They impressed me."
Although the Eagles only had six hits in the game, they took advantage of six walks and a hit batsman to get back in the game.
Sikeston hurler Lance Rhodes was the winning pitcher as he ran his season record to 9-0. He pitched all seven innings and allowed seven runs on six hits. He also struck out seven.
"Lance had good stuff and he was throwing the ball well," said Self. "He had good pop, but they just have some good sticks. They only had six hits but we had some walks ahead of them. They scored a lot with two outs and they hit a lot of balls right at people."
Early on it looked like Sikeston (27-2) would run the Eagles into the ground.
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the bottom of the first and five in the second to lead 9-0.
Blake DeWitt and Nathan Eaves each had triples in the first inning to get the offense going.
In the second inning, DeWitt added a run-scoring double and Jacob Priday had a two-run single to highlight the scoring.
Richard Landers added a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 9-0 and give the Bulldogs a golden chance to 10-run rule the Eagles, something Sikeston had done 10 times during the season.
But Grain Valley (23-6), a team that had 10-run ruled 14 different teams this year and carried a team batting average of .390, had other ideas.
As Sikeston took the lead, Grain Valley started to make their comeback, systematically chipping away with two runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings.
After a walk, the Eagles' Ryan Hedrick smacked a two out, two-run home run to left field to get on the board.
The Eagles got two more runs in the fourth after a single to left field was mishandled by Brad Deere, allowing the ball to reach the wall. One run scored on the play and Brandon Morris reached third on the play.
After a walk, Tyler Sallee grounded into a double play, but Morris came in to score to cut the lead to 9-4.
The Bulldogs added another run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI-single by Eaves to make it 10-4.
The Eagles made it 10-6 in the fifth and 10-7 in the sixth to creep even closer.
In the fifth, a run scored on a swinging strike three, but the ball got away from Priday, allowing Hedrick to score from third. A ground-out RBI by Morris brought home another run to make it 10-6.
A solo home run to left field by Chris Jenne in the top of the sixth closed the gap to 10-7.
Sikeston was able to plate one more run in the bottom of the sixth for added insurance on a Ross Merideth RBI-single up the middle.
Rhodes walked two people in the top of the seventh but he was able to get out of it with a flyout to right field end the game.
"They really wanted this game bad," said Self. "I started all the seniors and I felt like they earned that right. We hit up and down the lineup -- all the way down to No. 9 Brad Deere to the front with Scotty.
"We didn't have any trouble catching up today. I mean we faced 93 (Friday) and this kid had to throw more breaking balls. We were on everything. When we were in the cage I knew we were ready to swing them. It's as good as we can swing it, and it was still just enough. When you get up here it's quality competition. They're all legitimate teams."
Jenne was the losing pitcher, throwing just one inning and allowing seven runs off eight hits.
"He threw some pitches up in the zone and against good hitters you can't do that," said Lyford. "Those guys did a good job of hitting his mistakes. They're a good team. Obviously when you finish 27-2 you're doing some things well. They're solid, they've got nine guys in that lineup that can hit. It was a good game for the last five innings."
Hedrick pitched five innings of relief and allowed four runs (three earned) off eight hits. He struck out one and walked none.
It was just the second ever appearance in the MSHSAA Championships by Grain Valley, also taking fourth in last year's final four.
Sikeston's first six batters in the order combined for 14 of the team's 16 hits.
Priday was 3-4 with three RBIs and four runs. Eaves went 3-4 with two RBIs and a run. DeWitt, Rhodes, Keenan and Cullen DeHart each had two hits.
It was Sikeston's eighth final four appearance in school history, which is the fifth most in state history behind Cape Central, Jefferson City Helias and Notre Dame and New Bloomfield.
The Bulldogs also have 24 district championships in school history, which is tied for Cape Central for the second most in state history.
The Bulldogs set a school record for wins this season with 27, shattering last year's mark of 23.
The Bulldogs will lose seven seniors this year, ending a four-year varsity run with an amazing record of 93-14, including three final four appearances, taking second in 2001, third and fourth in 2002.
"They ended the run with a win and they set the school record at 27-2," said Self. "For a lot of guys they may not win 27 games in their whole career. I've got mixed emotions with our kids because we wanted that state title.
"But we played as well as we could possibly play, we just ran into a tough, tough pitcher. To come away with third, that wasn't what we wanted we were just one run from having a chance. This is a very special group and they will be missed."
The Ozark Tigers clinched the school's first ever state championship with an 8-2 victory against Missouri Institute Country Day School on Saturday night.
Ozark trailed 2-1 after two innings but took the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the third inning.
The Tigers extended the lead to 4-2 in the fourth and added two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings.
The run support was more than enough for lefty hurler Thomas Stilson, who threw six innings and allowed two unearned runs off just four hits. He struck out nine and walked one.
Zane Montgomery threw the final inning in relief, striking out one batter.
Ozark (29-4) stan
dout Lucas Harrell, who hit the game-winning home run and was the winning pitcher against Sikeston on Friday, went 3-for-3 with three runs scored.
Montgomery was 3-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Stilson, Derek Walster and Mike Pyle each had two hits and two RBIs.
The Tigers clubbed 12 hits in the game, one day after being held to four hits against Sikeston.
MICDS pitcher Tyler Short was the loser, throwing five innings and allowing six runs (five earned) on 10 hits.
MICDS, which defeated Grain Valley 4-3 in the semifinal on Friday, finished the season 23-4.