(photo by David Jenkins)
After enduring three rain-outs and soggy fields, the Bulldogs looked rusty in their season opener at VFW Stadium, falling 5-1 to SEMO Conference rival Cape Central on Wednesday.
"I give a lot of credit to Cape -- they got the timely hits when they needed them," said Sikeston head coach Kevin Self. "We gave them some runs early with poor execution defensively. Hopefully this will wake us up a little bit. It kind of started bad and it just went from there."
The Bulldogs fell behind 3-0 in the first inning and never could recover.
The Tigers scored two runs off singles and got another on a throwing error in the first inning.
"It's a good win -- we played very well today," said Cape Central head coach Steve Williams. "We played solid defensively, our pitching was real good today. I was disappointed that we got three runs in the first inning and kind of sat on it, but other than that I was very pleased with the way we played."
The Bulldogs had runners in scoring position in every inning but couldn't plate any of them, stranding 11 runners in the game.
Sikeston got its only run in the third inning when Jacob Priday smashed a home run just inside the left field foul pole.
Sikeston's best chance of scoring occurred in the fifth inning when Priday appeared to blast a two-run, game-tying homer over the left centerfield fence, but it was ruled a ground-rule double. The Bulldogs never scored the runs.
"We had balls hit right at them on a line for double plays, and that just takes us out of innings," said Self. "Sometimes you hit into bad luck. In the first inning they had two dunkers that drove in two runs -- off breaking balls, off balance and hit off the end of the bat and they just hit them in a good spot."
Cape Central plated two more runs in the seventh inning when Chris Conrad had a two-run single.
"Sikeston had a couple of chances today and they didn't cash in," said Williams. "As a coach you know that always comes back to haunt you when you don't cash in on opportunities. But for March 27, that's a great high school game this early in the season. Sikeston's going to be fine. They're going to be one of the top teams in the area. They've got too much talent and Kevin Self does a good job."
The Tigers got strong pitching out of junior John Thies and senior Kyle Duncan.
Thies picked up the win, throwing 4 2/3 innings while allowing one run off six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
Duncan threw 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing one hit with three walks and a strikeout.
Conrad led the Tigers with three hits, two RBIs and a run scored.
Sikeston's Jamie Puckett took the loss, allowing three runs off four hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Lance Rhodes threw 3 1/3 innings of relief, allowing two runs off one hit with five walks and five strikeouts. Blake DeWitt struck out the only two batters he faced in the seventh inning.
The Tigers only managed five hits, all singles, but the Bulldogs committed two errors, gave up seven walks and hit a batter.
Priday led Sikeston with three hits.
The Bulldogs now find themselves 0-1 in conference play to start the season which is an unfamiliar position for Self.
"That's the first time we've been in this position," said Self. "Now we'll see what it looks like from the other side. We usually start off real well conference-wise the last three or four years. The conference race isn't over, but we'll just have to make the rest of them count."
Cape Central is now 2-0 on the season and in conference play, getting an early jump on the competition.
"That's a goal of ours, the last time we won the conference was '94 or '95, so it's been a while -- it's been Sikeston and Notre Dame since then," said Williams. "So we were very cognizant of the conference race and we wanted to make sure we came out and gave our best effort today."
Sikeston will play in the Nettleton (Ark.) Tournament today, Friday and Saturday.
Cape Central will play four games in Oxford on Friday and Saturday in the Mississippi Challenge.