(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
Caruthersville (14-5), the District 1 champion, jumped to an early lead and held on to eliminate Kelly (11-9), the District 2 titleholders, from the MSHSAA Class 2 baseball tournament.
"In one game, anything can happen," said Kelly coach Cory Johnson. "We came out a little flat and they took advantage of that early in the game."
Two first-inning Kelly errors were ill-fated signs of things to come as the usually reliable Hawk defense committed eight miscues on the day. Four Caruthersville runs were unearned.
Three hits, mingled with the costly fielding blunders, led to five first-inning runs, two unearned. With a 5-0 cushion, Caruthersville was well on the way to the school's first-ever sectional win.
"To my knowledge, this is the farthest we've been since they started high school baseball in Caruthersville in the early '80s," said sixth-year coach Randy Malone. "I know they won a district championship in 1983."
Caruthersville tacked on a run in the third on Wes Pylate's RBI triple into left-centerfield which barely eluded a diving Kelly outfielder for the only extra-base hit of the game. The Tigers added two unearned runs in the fourth to extend the lead to 8-0.
Meanwhile, the Tigers' senior starter Matt Guy was cruising with a no-hitter through four innings.
"Matt Guy has been with me for four years and he's given me many solid games and he did it once again today," said Malone.
After sophomore Russell Carroll led off the fifth with the Hawks' first basehit, sophomore Jon Simpher stroked a two-run single up the middle following a bases-loaded walk to Kent Deason as the Hawks narrowed the margin to 8-3.
A suddenly struggling Guy, the winning pitcher, finished the inning, but was relieved by Jonathan Haddon in the sixth.
Guy went five innings and allowed three earned runs on two hits with six strikeouts and five walks. Haddon pitched two hitless innings for the save with two strikeouts and one walk.
Kelly made its last bid with two unearned runs in the top of the seventh, aided by two Caruthersville errors and a wild pitch.
Deason, Kelly's junior hard-luck loser, was victimized by the lack of both offensive and defensive support. He went the distance and was charged with four earned runs while scattering 10 hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Said Johnson, "Everybody I talked to said they were going to hit the ball and if you can field it, throw 'em out and play decent defense, you've got a chance to win the ballgame.
"The way we've been playing pretty well defensively, I thought, well, that's good, but it just didn't go our way today."
However, for the young Hawks, with six sophomores, one freshman and two juniors starting, the future looks bright.
"I told the guys, 'we've just got to learn from this situation,'" added Johnson. "A lot of teams that are as young as we are aren't even in this situation. We're here and maybe, if we get back in it again, we'll feel more comfortable. We can only build from this."
Caruthersville meets the winner of the Linn vs. East Carter Co. sectional game in the quarterfinal on Friday.