(photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- In order to win the District 14 championship on Saturday, Sikeston's Senior Legion team needed to beat powerhouse Dunklin County twice.
Post 114 was able to win the first game 10-6 behind a dominant pitching performance from Lance Rhodes. But as expected, the road Sikeston took to the finals came with a price.
The team ran out of pitching and lost the "if necessary" game 15-4 in seven innings.
"The kids played really hard the entire district," said Sikeston manager Charlie Dye. "It's a shame we ran short of pitching in the last game. You can't fault the effort. They never quit and never gave up. I know they're disappointed they didn't win a district title, but the effort they gave was just outstanding. The coaching staff is very, very proud of them."
Sikeston 10, Dunklin County 6
After pitching eight innings on Tuesday, Rhodes came back to throw Saturday's first game on short rest. His arm showed no wear against DC's stacked lineup though, picking up the complete-game win.
In nine innings of work, Rhodes allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks, taking 11 batters down via strikeout.
"Lance threw an unbelievable game," said Dye. "After the third inning, he shut Dunklin County out the rest of the way. That was the shot in the arm we needed. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on."
Sikeston's offense rallied behind Rhodes' performance on the mound, as Blake DeWitt, Nathan Eaves, Jacob Priday and Scotty Keenan all blasted home runs off Dunklin County pitcher Jonathan Winston.
Eaves gave Sikeston the early advantage, leading off the top of the first with a homer. Dunklin County fired right back in the bottom of the inning, scoring four runs, highlighted by a two-run shot by Billy Palmer.
DC added two more runs in the second inning to take a 6-1 lead.
"Dunklin County is just a very good hitting ballclub," said Dye. "Lance was a little shaky in the first couple of innings, but after that, he found his control. He was mixing his pitches very well and getting ahead of the hitters."
Post 114 answered with four runs in the third inning, highlighted by back-to-back home runs. DeWitt blasted a two-run shot, then Priday followed with a solo.
Sikeston took the lead in the fourth inning off an RBI single from DeWitt and a sacrifice fly from Priday. Keenan added a two-run home run in the seventh, then Adam Miller provided an RBI single to give Sikeston the 10-6 win.
DeWitt finished the game 4-for-4 with three RBIs and a run. Eaves was 2-for-5 with an RBI and three runs. Drew Lawrence was 2-for-6 with a double and a run scored.
Priday was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Keenan was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Jake Kimball, Andrew Lambert and Miller also provided hits.
For Dunklin County, Winston was charged with the loss. In eight innings, he allowed 15 hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Foster threw the final inning.
At the plate, Billy Palmer and Brian Lacey had two hits each. Nathan Baker, Hunter Butler and Tyler Boatwright each added one.
Post 114 threw the kitchen sink at Dunklin County in the second game, but it wasn't enough. Mark Adam Wade, Lawrence, Lambert and Dustin Kelley all pitched in the 15-4 loss.
"It is tough coming back through a loser's bracket," said Dye. "You've got to have a real deep pitching staff, and unfortunately, we didn't have that this summer. But you don't question the effort the kids gave. They tried and competed, we just came up a game short."
At the plate, Priday was 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run. DeWitt was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs. Kimball, Rhodes and Keenan also contributed hits.
Dunklin County's Nathan Baker got the win. In seven innings he allowed four runs on nine hits and three walks with 13 strikeouts.
Lacey paced the offense, batting 3-for-4. Jared Duffel was 2-for-4 and Dustin Pritchett was 2-for-3. Butler and Jeremy Lyons also had hits.
Dunklin County (35-7) advances to the Zone Tournament in Cape Girardeau, an event the team won last year. The tournament starts on Thursday.
"They will be a fine representative of the 14th District," said Dye. "They're well coached, they've got a good ballclub and they've got a couple of strong pitchers. They've got a chance to do very well up in the Zone."
Post 114 ends the year with a record of 20-9.
"I think the season has to be considered a success," said Dye. "We were very young and a little bit short on pitching, but the kids made up for it with pure guts, determination and hustle. We hit the ball really, really well. All year long, we have been able to score runs up and down the lineup. We were never really out of a ballgame."
Dye also thanked his team's sponsor for their support this season.
"The American Legion Post 114 has been behind us for years and years," he said. "Without their support, it would be very difficult to run the program."
NOTES: Rhodes threw 17 innings in the district, only allowing four runs in two games...DeWitt was 14-of-24 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in the district. Priday was 12-of-19 with 10 RBIs in the three games.