SIKESTON -- A familiar team is back in the role of favorite in the SEMO Conference baseball tournament this year.
Sikeston (12-5), which has played in the tournament championship game in each of its six years, is seeded first heading into this year's tournament. Opening-round play-in games will begin Thursday with Kelly hosting Poplar Bluff and New Madrid County Central playing host to Kennett.
Sikeston, No. 2 Central, No. 3 Jackson and No. 4 Dexter will host quarterfinal games Friday. The semifinals will be played at Central on Saturday, and the finals are scheduled for Monday at Capaha Field.
The Bulldogs are tied atop the conference standings with Central, but hold the tiebreaker due to their earlier win at Central. Sikeston has not won the tournament since 2004.
"We're just going to play them one game at a time and see what happens," Sikeston coach Kevin Self said.
Central won the title last year, 8-4 over Sikeston. It was the first tournament title for the Tigers.
"If we were the defending champion and No. 1 seed [there may be pressure], but by virtue of Sikeston beating us earlier in the season, I think we have something to prove again," Central coach Steve Williams said.
Jackson has rebounded from a slow start to earn the third seed. The Indians (11-7) will face No. 6 Notre Dame in the opening round.
Chaffee is seeded fifth and will go to Dexter in the other opening-round game. If the seeds hold, Sikeston would get a chance to avenge one of its two SEMO Conference losses against Dexter in the semifinals. Central nipped Jackson 3-2 in a prior meeting this season.