SIKESTON - The Sikeston Junior American Legion Auxiliary Unit 114 baseball team needed one win to clinch the top seed in the upcoming district tournament.
But with a 5-4 loss in eight innings to Cape Junior Legion on Friday at VFW Stadium, things just got more complicated. Both teams still have district games to play, but as of Friday night Sikeston and Cape were tied for first in the district with 5-3 records.
"This cost us a chance at the No. 1 seed," said Sikeston head coach Jeff Limbaugh. "There could be a three-way tie for first now. We had destiny in our hands and had them at our park but we didn't get it done."
Unit 114 (21-11, 5-3) dug themselves a 4-0 hole, but a rally in the bottom of the seventh tied the game, sending it to extra innings.
Cape ended up winning the game in the top of the eighth when Steve Meinch scored from third when Sikeston made an error that would've ended the inning.
"They made a good play and a good throw and it kind of handcuffed the first baseman a little," said Cape head coach Jay Crosnoe. "Sometimes that happens. We tried to take advantage of it. We'll take the runs any way we can."
Cape starter Lee Essner picked up the win, throwing all eight innings and allowing four runs off eight hits. He struck out six and walked only one.
"We didn't make Essner work early, we were swinging at first and second pitches and he was getting some easy outs," said Limbaugh. "Through four innings he had thrown 23 pitches because we were up there swinging at everything. Finally halfway through the game we decided we wanted this guy to work a little bit. It was a hot night and we made him work in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings."
Essner had given up just two hits through the first six innings. Sikeston laced five singles during its rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Crosnoe knew it was only a matter of time before Sikeston's bats woke up.
"It's not surprising they came back," said Crosnoe. "We were wanting to get one more run to get a five run lead because you never feel comfortable against them."
It all started when Essner hit Ross Merideth to lead off the inning. After Josh Miller struck out, Ben Pyles and Cullen DeHart singled to load the bases.
Jordan Kimball and Matt Limbaugh followed that up with consecutive run-scoring singles to make it 4-2. A sacrifice fly by Chris Nance and a two-out single by John Robert Bizzell tied the game at 4-4.
"Once you get them started they're just hard to get out," said Crosnoe. "(Essner) might have lost a little bit in the seventh inning and with a four run lead he might have been kind of comfortable. Before you know it you get baserunners on and things happen."
Essner struck out Landers with runners on first and third to end the inning. He retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth.
"We spotted them runs and came back in the last inning with a chance to win but it just didn't happen for us," said Limbaugh. "I was proud of the way we came back in the last inning."
Sikeston reliever Richard Landers took the loss in three innings of work. He allowed two unearned runs off five hits.
Unit 114 starter Merideth pitched five innings, allowing three runs off five hits. He struck out three and walked five.
"He had a bad first inning but Ross is a gamer," said Limbaugh. "He battled hard. Our pitching has been good all year long. It's as good as anybody's. We just didn't start hitting until the last inning."
Cape took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Patrick Slattery singled and another run scored on a double play.
They got another run in the fourth when Merideth balked Zac Hudson to second. Two batters later, Ty Craft singled him home to make it 3-0.
Cape added one more run in the sixth when Ty Craft walked and circled the bases on a variety of wild pitches and passed balls to make it 4-0.
It's Cape's first win against Sikeston in four tries this year.
"They're an excellent team," said Crosnoe. "You give them an inch and they take a foot. They're a hard team to beat. They're really tough on us. Sikeston always comes up with a good program. When they come to the field they're ready to play."
Bizzell led Unit 114 with two hits including and RBI. Kimball and Limbaugh also had RBIs.
Cape was led by Ty Craft and Mitch Craft with two hits each. Ty Craft also had two runs and an RBI.
Sikeston plays at Marshall County (Ky.) today at 2:30 in a doubleheader. They will host Poplar Bluff tomorrow at 6 p.m. for a district doubleheader at 6 p.m. at VFW Stadium.