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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

SHOWDOWN: No. 1 ranked Sikeston will take on No. 2 ranked North County tomorrow

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Sikeston's Scotty Keenan, shown here making a "snow-cone" catch against Notre Dame earlier this year, is one of the Bulldogs' top hitters and fielders
(File Photo)
BONNE TERRE - The matchup that high school baseball fans in Southeast Missouri have been waiting for will become a reality tomorrow when the top-ranked Sikeston Bulldogs visit No. 2 ranked North County.

Two years ago the two teams engaged in an epic battle, with Sikeston coming out on top 2-1 in a 12-inning marathon in a Class 3 Sectional.

The game was hyped up even more last year as both teams rolled through the regular season with one loss apiece. But the game never happened as Sikeston was upset in the district tournament. North County went on to win the state championship virtually untested.

And then this season the teams were set to meet in the McCracken County Wooden Bat Tournament, but North County opted out of the game due to the possibility the teams could meet in the playoffs.

Finally, fans will get this long anticipated game tomorrow at 2 p.m.

North County enters the game with a 20-3 record, having lost to Jefferson City Helias, Jackson and Farmington.

Sikeston comes into the game with a 24-1 record, having lost only to Notre Dame. The Bulldogs defeated Notre Dame three times however, including a 10-0 run-rule game in the district championship game.

"We just know Sikeston's going to be a good team -- they've only had one loss this year so we know our hands are full," said North County coach Steve Pasternak. "The 12 inning ballgame we had two years ago was kind indicative that they have some awful good talent and they've got a lot of those kids back. We expect a good ballgame."

There are only three common opponents between the Bulldogs and Raiders. North County lost to Jackson 4-3 while Sikeston beat the Indians 10-1.

North County beat Notre Dame 2-1, while Sikeston went 3-1 against the private school Bulldogs.

Also, North County beat Trigg County, Ky., in the wood bat tournament 7-1. Sikeston also beat Trigg County 3-0.

"We play some pretty good competition -- we don't try to put any patsy teams on our schedule," said Pasternak. "We knew that Sikeston would probably have a good chance of winning their district."

North County boasts one of the top pitching staffs in the state led by 6-foot-2 senior lefthander Shea Brady. He is 10-0 this season with a 1.57 earned run average. He has struck out an amazing 113 batters with just 28 walks in 58 innings pitched.

The Raiders also have senior Adam Howard, who just returned from an injury that kept him off the mound for the majority of the season. Howard is 2-0 on the season with a 1.24 ERA, striking out 32 and walking five in 17 innings.

He threw a perfect game against DeSoto in the district semifinals.

Other pitchers that could see time on the hill are Albert Cooley, Wes Foshee and Ryan Blankenship.

North County allows just under two runs per game.

Offensively the Raiders are stellar as well, averaging 8.4 runs per game.

Howard is the team's top hitter, batting .565 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs. Howard also has six doubles and four triples. Lucas Hulsey follows up at .449 with six home runs and 27 RBIs, including 10 doubles and a triple.

Justin Neely is batting .381 with a pair of homers and 14 RBIs. Dusty Aubuchon has a .371 average with 15 RBIs while Blankenship bats .313 with a pair or home runs and 19 RBIs.

The Raiders are also strong on the basepaths with four different players with at least 11 steals.

The Raiders have stolen 74 bases this year. Sikeston only has 43 steals, but have been caught just six times.

Sikeston averages 8.5 runs per game and allows exactly two runs per outing.

The Bulldogs are led in hitting by Jacob Priday with a .538 average. He has seven home runs with 39 RBIs, 10 doubles and a triple. He also has 43 runs scored.

Blake DeWitt is batting .563 with 13 home runs, 47 runs scored and 42 RBIs.

Lance Rhodes follows up at 409 with four home runs, 23 RBIs and 33 runs scored.

Nathan Eaves is hitting .394 with four home runs and 23 RBIs while Scotty Keenan checks in at .356 with three home runs. He leads the team with 21 walks despite missing five games with an arm injury.

J.R. Bizzell is also batting over .300 with a .327 average.

On the mound the Bulldogs are just as strong. Rhodes is 7-0 with a 1.49 ERA. He has 56 strikeouts and 18 walks in 47 innings.

DeWitt is 6-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 43 innings. He has 61 strikeouts and eight walks.

Bryce Wibbenmeyer is 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA and Ross Merideth is 5-0 with a team-leading 0.56 ERA. Merideth has 30 strikeouts and just two walks in 25 innings.