JACKSON - The Sikeston Senior American Legion Post 114 baseball team advanced to the second round of the District 14 Tournament with a thrilling 4-3 victory against second-seeded Dunklin County on Wednesday at Jackson's Legion Park.
Sikeston plays the winner of the Cape Ford & Sons-Jackson game tonight at 8 p.m. The game had a rain delay on Wednesday night and results were not available at press time.
Third-seeded Sikeston got a stellar pitching performance out of Lance Rhodes to defeat Dunklin County ace Dylan Gurley in a classic pitching duel.
Rhodes threw 148 pitches in going 8 2/3 innings. Gurley fired up 132 pitches in eight innings of work.
"It was just a typical Sikeston-Dunklin County game," said Sikeston coach Charlie Dye. "It was well-pitched, well-played and those kids never give up over there. They made a run at us. Both pitchers pitched outstanding. It was just a heck of a ballgame. We scored just enough runs to win."
Rhodes also provided some fireworks on offense as he hit a tie-breaking two-run home run over the left field fence to take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh.
"That was humongous -- at the time it was 1-1 going into the seventh inning -- any run at that point was big," said Dye. "But a two-run home run gave us a little bit of a cushion."
Following Rhodes' home run, Sikeston came back with another run in the bottom of the eighth when Richard Landers bounced a single through the middle to bring home Jordan Kimball, making it 4-1.
Had it not taken a wild hop over a diving shortstop's head, Landers' single possibly could've been at least kept on the infield, which would've kept Kimball from scoring.
"We needed to catch a break here or there and it didn't happen," said Dunklin County coach Justin Dobbins.. It came down to a couple breaks here or there and a couple calls here or there. Say what you want. We got beat."
Dunklin County (25-17) didn't go quietly in the ninth.
Back-to-back singles by Ben Foster and B.J. Flippo and a hit batter on Brian Cagle loaded the bases with no outs.
Jeremy Patton then singled into right field to bring home Foster. Flippo was also waved home but Rhodes cut off the throw and relayed to catcher Matt Smith who blocked the plate to nab Flippo at home.
The bang-bang play left Dobbins visibly upset -- it proved to be the play of the game as Dunklin County scored again.
A Gurley ground out to third base brought home another run to cut the lead to 4-3.
After Rhodes walked Anthony Patton, Dye lifted him for Josh Miller to close the door.
Miller proceeded to get the save on three different pitches -- fastball, change up, curve ball -- to strike out cleanup batter Landon Small, leaving the go-ahead run on second base.
With Rhodes' pitch count already eclipsing 130 heading into the ninth, Dye was torn on whether or not to leave him in the game.
"I was hoping I didn't make the wrong decision by leaving him in with as many pitches as he's thrown," said Dye. "But he's a senior and he's been there. But you have to give Josh Miller credit too. He came in with the game on the line and struck out their number four hitter with three quality pitches. This time of the year all the kids have to be ready and you have to tip your hat to Josh for sitting the whole game and being able to get us the win in that situation."
Dunklin County struck first in the game with a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
Dustin Boatwright was hit by a pitch and he eventually came around to score on a ground out by Flippo.
Sikeston (17-9) tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Brandon Crook led off with a single. He stole second and scored on a Drew Lawrence double to left field in which the leftfielder lost the ball in the sun.
"For seven innings it was a nip and tuck game," said Dye. "They made some outstanding defensive plays."
Both teams played flawless defense behind their pitchers -- only one error was committed in the game.
Sikeston was led in hitting by Rhodes' 2-4 day with two RBIs. Landers also went 2-4 with an RBI.
Dunklin County had no multiple hitters.
In Gurley's eight innings, he allowed four earned runs off 10 hits and two walks. He struck out five.
Rhodes allowed three earned runs off five hits, six walks and three hit batters. He struck out eight.
"I thought that was excellent -- they both pitched their butts off," said Dobbins. "They didn't give up a whole lot. We got to Lance a little bit late and they got to Dylan a little bit in the middle. I thought Dylan gave us a chance to win. We just came up a little bit short."
Dunklin County plays the loser of the Cape-Jackson game today at 5 p.m.