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Sunday, Sep. 21, 2014

Conference tourney wide open

Thursday, May 2, 2002

Sikeston seeking SEMO crown as No. 3 seed

CAPE GIRARDEAU - The second annual SEMO Conference Baseball Tournament will get underway today at 6 p.m. at Capaha Field in Cape Girardeau.

The tournament, which was a rousing success in its inaugural year last season, is expected to be just as tough this year.

Teams were seeded by conference records on Tuesday. Notre Dame garnered the top seed with its 6-1 record. Dexter, with a record of 5-2 was seeded second while Sikeston got the third seed with a 4-2 mark.

The Bulldogs will play sixth-seeded Cape Central (4-4) on Friday at 6:45 p.m. at Capaha Field.

Jackson (5-3) and New Madrid County Central (3-2) round out seeds four and five.

The tournament will start today with two play-in games. Eighth-seeded Chaffee (3-5), the defending tournament champions, will take on No. 9 Kelly (1-6) at 6 p.m., while seventh-seeded Poplar Bluff (3-5) will play No. 10 Scott City (0-4) at 8:15.

The winner of the first game will play Notre Dame at 4:30 on Friday at Cape Central High School. The winner of the second game will play Dexter in the nightcap on Friday at Capaha Field at 9:15.

Once again, the tournament should provide some exciting games for area high school baseball fans.

"I really enjoy the idea of having a tournament at a place like Capaha," said Sikeston head coach Kevin Self. "It's a chance to showcase the talent of our conference, which I feel like is a very strong conference. Everybody has at least two losses except for Notre Dame -- there's a lot of parity in the league and it should make for a very, very strong tournament."

In addition to the tournament being very competitive, it is also showcased on the biggest stage in Southeast Missouri at the nice facilities of Capaha Field.

Self's Bulldogs reached the tournament finals last year only to be shutout 5-0 by Chaffee's Matt Stroup in front of a huge crowd at the park.

"You look at last year in the finals and there was probably a couple thousand people there watching on Monday night at 9 o'clock," said Self. "That was exciting and fun for our kids to be able to play under those conditions with the big crowd and a lot of people there. It was a big success last year and hopefully it will be that way this year."

Sikeston is once again favored by most coaches to be in the finals again despite a three seed.

The Bulldogs (13-2 overall) lost to Cape Central in the season-opener and fell to Jackson a few games later. But the Bulldogs own 12-0 and 13-2 wins over the top two seeds Notre Dame and Dexter, and they have won eight straight games.

"It's tremendously wide open this year," said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Graviett, whose team is 11-3 after Wednesday's loss to Oran. "But I think Sikeston's got to be heavily favored with the way they're playing right now. We've been playing well, but I don't know how deserving we are with the way Sikeston put it to us. But I definitely think we're a top three or four seed."

Notre Dame's only loss in conference play came to Dexter, who is 10-3 overall.

"I think Sikeston and Notre Dame are definitely at the top but Dexter's been extremely tough on people this year and Jackson's been real hot of late," said Chaffee head coach Brian Horrell. "You've four or five ballclubs at the top that should be favored."

Jackson (10-5) just had a seven-game winning streak snapped by Cape Central (4-12), which in turn snapped a six-game skid with the victory.

NMCC (5-4) enters with a thrilling 2-1 victory against Poplar Bluff (4-13) over the weekend.

But the Mules can also pose a threat in the tournament according to Self.

"Poplar Bluff is a seven seed but when Josh Smith pitches they're going to be as good as anybody," said Self. "Whenever a team throws a pitcher like that, or if a team is focused for a day, anybody can beat anybody. I think every game is going to be a good game. I don't think you'll see a lot of blowouts this year."

Chaffee (10-6) was hit hard by graduation from last year but Horrell is hoping that his Red Devils might remember some of the team's success in last year's tourney.

"For a little bitty town like us getting to play a great program like Sikeston on center stage at Capaha Field -- I just could not believe the number of people that were at the game from all over the area," said Horrell. "Everybody that was anybody from Chaffee was there and I know Sikeston had a heck of a crowd. Everywhere up and down the hillside was just packed. I've never seen such a big crowd at a Capaha game before. It was just great for our kids to get to experience and cherish. Hopefully this year's club will remember some of that and hopefully we'll come out and play well."

The Red Devils must get through the always late-blooming Kelly (7-7) in the first round. The Hawks, under new head coach John Gant, started the season 0-4, but have won seven of their last 10, including a conference win against Cape Central.

Scott City (5-6) enters as the only team without a conference victory but they have played several top teams tough, including a one-run loss to Notre Dame.

Graviett is hoping to duplicate last year's exciting championship night on a Monday evening.

"I think Monday night last year was awesome," said Graviett. "We had Notre Dame and Cape Central which was a big rivalry playing for third and it was a great game. And the crowd that was there to watch Chaffee and Sikeston was just unbelievable -- a great atmosphere. It's definitely one of the best tournaments in the state."