SIKESTON -- After an hour delay and a sluggish start, Sikeston's Senior American Legion Post 114 baseball team came together to stage a stirring comeback with a stunning finish.
Matt Smith blasted a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift Sikeston to a 6-5 win over De Soto on Thursday at VFW Stadium.
"I was looking for a curveball and he hung one, what else can I say," said Smith, a college freshman from Cairo, Ill. "I told Coach (Bruce) Lawrence that if he throws me one, I was going to hit it."
The game, originally scheduled as a doubleheader with a 6 p.m. start time, was shifted to one nine-inning contest when an afternoon rain rendered the field unplayable.
The Sikeston coaches, players and several volunteers worked feverishly to get the field in shape and the game finally got underway about 7:10 p.m.
Leadoff hitter Brad Deere doubled and came around to score on two wild pitches to stake Sikeston to a 1-0 first-inning lead, but De Soto came back with two runs in the third, two more in the fourth and another in the fifth to take a seemingly commanding 5-1 lead.
Meanwhile De Soto's starter T. J. Greenlee was cruising with a dominating one-hitter.
Sikeston scratched out two unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth -- on only one hit -- thanks to two costly De Soto errors which closed the gap to 5-3.
Obviously impressed with the performance of De Soto's starting pitcher, Sikeston manager Charlie Dye said, "The pitcher they threw was plenty tough. He's just a (high school) sophomore and he threw the ball well. We had our hands full, but we hung in there and that's about all you can ask for."
Greenlee exited in the ninth with a no-decision. He allowed three hits, gave up five runs -- only one earned -- and struck out 10. Reliever D. J. Politte was the victim of Smith's game-winner.
Sikeston's pitching, particularly the effort of Ross Merideth, was also outstanding.
Merideth, who came on at the top of the fifth inning in relief of starter Jordan Kimball with the score at 4-1, went the rest of the way to pick up the win.
He was charged with one unearned run in six innings of work, while yielding only three hits.
"You've got to give kudos to Ross," said Dye. "He held them basically where they were and gave us a chance to come back."
Sikeston completed the comeback with two runs in the seventh to pull into a 5-5 tie.
A De Soto throwing error on a Merideth groundball opened the gates with one out. A walk to Jordan Penn wrapped around two passed balls put runners at second and third. Smith, in a pinch-hitting role, lofted a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Merideth, then Drew Lawrence, also pinch hitting, tripled in the gap in left-centerfield to plate Penn with the game-tying run.
"This is a team game," said Dye, on the clutch performance of his bench. "You've got to have contributions up and down the lineup."
The contest remained deadlocked until Smith's heroic shot in the tenth.
While improving to 2-0 on the young season, Sikeston dropped De Soto to 2-4. Although outhit 9-4, Sikeston again showed its mettle in tight ballgames. Deere had two of Sikeston's four hits.
Said Dye, "Our pitching did a good job again tonight and our bats'll come around. We'll be there."