(Photos by Lance Hanlin, Staff)
SIKESTON - Trailing 11-9 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Sikeston Bulldogs baseball team was one strike away from losing to conference and district opponent Dexter on Monday at VFW Stadium.
But instead of cashing in their chips, the Bulldogs rallied to defeat the Bearcats 12-11 on a two-run double by junior all-stater Blake DeWitt.
Dexter (5-2, 1-2 SEMO Conference) starter Brandon Miller was one strike away from victory, but he ended up walking Brad Deere to keep the game alive.
He then hit Drew Lawrence and Nathan Eaves back-to-back to load the bases for DeWitt.
Two pitches later, DeWitt blasted a double over Kermit Thomley's head in left centerfield to plate the game-winning runs.
Sikeston's players then swarmed DeWitt at second base in celebration, knowing they had just dodged a bullet.
"That's what I was most proud of, that we didn't quit," said Sikeston head coach Kevin Self. "Even with two outs, two runs down, and nobody on, we found a way to win. That's going to help us down the road."
Even in defeat, Becker knows his team took a big step forward by giving the Bulldogs all they wanted.
Sikeston (10-1, 5-0 SEMO) appeared on the verge of running the Bearcats out of the ballpark early.
The Bulldogs led 4-0 after the first inning and 6-1 after three innings.
But the Dexter bats caught fire as they were able to tie the score at 6-6 in the top of the fourth inning.
They took their first lead in the top of the sixth with four runs, staking a 10-8 advantage.
"I'm proud of the way we battled back," said Becker. "Especially with the way that Sikeston has owned us the past few years. After we got down early there it would've been easy to say, 'it looks like we're going to get run-ruled again.' We didn't do that."
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 10-9 in the bottom of the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Lance Rhodes. Prior to that, Sikeston was cost a run when a Jacob Priday hit went through the left field fence, making it a ground-rule double instead of a run-scoring triple.
Dexter got a run back in the top of the seventh on a RBI-double by Nolan Pixley.
That set up the Bulldogs' final rally in the bottom of the seventh.
"I told my kids in the bottom of the seventh, 'this is where you find out what kind of character you've got,'" said Self. "Brad Deere, Drew Lawrence and Nathan Eaves did exactly what they were supposed to do and that's make the kid pitch. Do anything you can do to get on, and that's what they did. Blake's double doesn't mean anything if those other three guys don't get on."
Becker had the option of walking DeWitt after the wild pitch, which would have set up a force out at any base.
But he said he didn't want to see Priday again, who had already hit two home runs in the game.
"You never want DeWitt coming up with the bases loaded any time, much less in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run lead," said Becker. "You don't want him in that situation, but if you look, right behind him is Jacob Priday, and he's killed us all day. So we decided to deal with it."
Priday went 3-3 with four RBIs and two home runs. Lawrence added two hits with three runs scored.
DeWitt finished 2-3 with five RBIs and two doubles.
DeWitt also got the win on the mound in relief. He threw two innings and allowed five runs (three earned) off five hits.
"We've had some easy games and this one starts out like that when we get up 6-1," said Self. "But I give credit to Coach Becker and Dexter, because those kids have been in that situation before and usually it's gone the other way for them. But they fought back and fought back. Dexter is better, there's no doubt about it. I think we found out today that you cannot take anything for granted, because teams are going to battle you tooth-and-nail to the end."
In taking the loss, Brandon Miller threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing 12 runs (11 earned) off nine hits. He walked seven and struck out five.
"It's his first year pitching believe it or not," said Becker. "He has a nice little slider and I think he might do some good for us. I think he kind of wore out. He wanted to finish and I tried to give him that opportunity. But that last batter, he threw four that weren't anywhere near, so he left me no choice to take him out."
Scotty Keenan started for the Bulldogs. He threw 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs off six hits with four strikeouts.
Bryce Wibbenmeyer threw 1 2/3 innings in relief, allowing two hits and one run.
Dexter will host Chaffee today at 4 p.m. in a SEMO Conference matchup.
Sikeston will host district rival Kennett on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The Sikeston jayvee team improved to 5-0 on the season and 4-0 in the SEMO Conference with a 20-5 win against Dexter's JV.
Ryan Merideth led the Bulldogs with a 2-for-2 day at the plate, including a grand slam and six RBIs.
He also got the win, throwing five innings. He allowed six hits and five runs while striking out eight and walking two.
Eric Chappell went 3-3 with an RBI. Others were John Robert Bizzell (1-2, RBI), Matt Limbaugh (1-2, 2 RBIs), Cody Cooper (1-1, 2 RBIs), Andrew Box (2-4) and Colt Pruitt (2-2, RBI).
EAST PRAIRIE - The East Prairie Eagles put the mercy rule in effect against Delta on Monday, winning 13-3 in six innings.
The Eagles (7-3) got a strong pitching performance out of freshman reliever Ryan Adams, who threw four innings and allowed two runs off two hits. He struck out five and walked one to get the win.
"Ryan Adams came in during the third inning when it was tied up 1-1," said East Prairie head coach Jason Aycock. "He did a real good job and kept them off balance throwing strikes. He got his first win and I'm proud of him for that."
Kaleb Thurman started the game, throwing two innings and allowing one run off one hit. He struck out three and walked three.
Adams and Thurman both helped their own cause. Adams went 2-2 with an RBI while Thurman went 2-3 with an RBI.
Hunter Jones led the Eagles with three hits and two RBIs. Others were Ben Walters (1-2, RBI), Danny Bright (1-2) and Jacob Poore (1-2).
"I was proud of our boys," said Aycock. "We had two guys sitting out. Matt Boyer was on a recruiting trip and so was one of our other big sticks. We had several people out of position. We had some guys that hadn't been in the lineup and they got in there and did the job. All of them came through in clutch situations and they put runs on the board."