ST. LOUIS - The Sikeston Auxiliary Unit 114 baseball team took second place at the Junior American Legion Zone Tournament in St. Louis over the weekend.
After being rained out on Thursday, Sikeston lost its first game on Friday to Chesterfield 12-2 in five innings, forcing Unit 114 to fight its way through the loser's bracket.
They were able to win three straight games against Anheuser-Busch (4-0), Chesterfield (10-8) and Imperial (2-0) before losing to Imperial in the "if necessary" game for the championship 10-5.
After Sikeston's loss on Friday to Chesterfield, head coach Jeff Limbaugh knew the team had a tall task ahead of them.
"It looked bad -- we played one of our worst games of the season in that first game," said Limbaugh. "But we talked about playing for pride and I was happy with the way the boys answered. We came back and shutout a pretty good Anheuser-Busch team and got some revenge and knocked out Chesterfield. That was a big highlight for us to put them out of the tournament after they spanked us in the first game. We battled as good as we could and any coach would be happy with that kind of effort."
In the first game, Chesterfield jumped ahead 5-0 in the first inning and never looked back. Chesterfield pounded out 14 hits in the game, eventually winning by the 10-run rule.
Sikeston ace Jordan Kimball pitched only 2/3 of an inning before being pulled from the mound.
Sikeston's only hitters were Richard Landers (2-3, 2B, run), Ben Pyles (1-3) and Cullen DeHart (1-3, 2 RBIs, 3B).
Later that night Sikeston defeated Anheuser-Busch 4-0 to stay alive in the tournament.
Josh Miller picked up the win, throwing all seven innings and allowing just four hits and five walks. He struck out seven batters and only allowed two runners to reach third base the entire game.
"Josh was throwing the ball well at the end of the season," said Limbaugh. "He pitched for Dexter's high school team this season so he's pitched in big games. The boys love playing behind Josh because he goes out there and doesn't take a lot of time between pitches. We were glad to have his effort."
Hitters for Sikeston against Anheuser-Busch were Matt Limbaugh (2-3, RBI), DeHart (1-3), Jordan Penn (1-2, 2B, run) and Jeffrey Hunter (1-2, 2B, run).
Against Chesterfield on Saturday, Ross Merideth picked up the complete game win.
Chesterfield again jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning. But Unit 114 wasn't fazed.
Trailing 8-5 in the bottom of the sixth, Unit 114 exploded for five runs highlighted by Kimball's two-run single which plated the tying and go-ahead runs.
Merideth shut Chesterfield (16-8) down in the top of the seventh to pick up the win. He allowed eight runs (four earned) off eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
Sikeston committed seven errors in the game but was still somehow able to pull out the win.
"They jumped out 5-0 on us and we go, 'here we go again,'" said Limbaugh. "But to the boys' credit, especially Ross, they wouldn't quit. Ross was one of the guys in the dugout that wouldn't let us quit. It was hot, he was sweating and he was out there gutting it out and the boys saw him competing and trying. It was a typical Ross Merideth game. That was a sweet win."
Hitters for Sikeston were Landers (2-3, 2 runs, RBI), DeHart (2-3, 2B, 2 runs, 2 RBIs), Penn (1-3, 2 runs, RBI), Miller (1-3, 2B, 2 RBIs), Eric Chappell (1-1, run), Kimball (1-2, 3 RBIs) and J.R. Bizzell (1-4).
Later on Saturday night, Sikeston defeated Imperial 2-0 to force the "sudden death" matchup on Sunday.
Kimball pitched a gem, going all seven innings and allowing just three hits and three walks while striking out 10.
Sikeston got a run in the third inning when DeHart singled home Landers, who had singled and stolen second and third.
"He said he's never been taken out of the first inning ever since he's been pitching," said Limbaugh of Kimball. "So he made it a personal vendetta against Imperial. He shut down a pretty good Imperial squad. They hardly ever threatened and he was definitely on his 'A' game that night."
Unit 114 got a 2-0 lead in the sixth when Pyles doubled and Kimball singled. Miller followed up with a groundout-RBI.
Hitters for Sikeston were Landers (2-4, run), Pyles (1-3, 2B, run), DeHart (1-3, RBI), Kimball (1-2) and J.R. Bizzell (2-3).
In the championship game on Sunday, Imperial jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first before Unit 114 tied the game 3-3 in the second.
Imperial (31-8) took charge from there, scoring six runs in the third inning to blow the game open, eventually winning 10-5 to win the Zone.
DeHart took the loss in 1 2/3 innings of work.
Sikeston played without Pyles, who was injured, and most of the game without Merideth, who suffered from heat exhaustion playing as the catcher.
"I thought we were as good as any team up there and I know the boys did too," said Limbaugh. "I don't think Imperial was that much better than us but they just caught us short-handed and our pitching was a little wore out from the loser's bracket."
Hitters for Sikeston were Miller (2-3, 2B, 2 runs), DeHart (2-3, 3B, run, RBI), Landers (1-3), Martin Schaefer (1-1) and Hunter (sac-fly RBI).
Sikeston finished the season with 30 wins, marking just the second time in recent memory that Unit 114 has won that many games in back-to-back seasons after last year's 44-9 ledger.
"You're happy to win 30 games," said Limbaugh. "We didn't get the big-time Sikeston 16-year-olds that had to play up. We had some good 16-year-olds from the other schools, but we were playing with mostly a young squad. With 15s, 14s and some 16s, we played pretty well."
Limbaugh also pointed out the extra help the team received from area businesses and the local legion.
"I would like to thank the Ladies Auxiliary Unit 114 for all the good things they did for the boys this year, sponsoring us and letting us play ball and compete in these big tournaments," he said. "Plus we got some businesses throughout Sikeston, New Madrid, Portageville and Dexter that helped the boys. We were the only team that had to stay in a hotel up there. And with the night of rain we had to stay an extra night, so without the fine support of the Auxiliary Unit and those sponsors it would've been a less than enjoyable trip, but it was a good trip, the boys had fun and they competed and I think we did pretty well."