SIKESTON - After four years of dominating the Greene County Tech Tournament in Paragould, Ark., the Sikeston Bulldog baseball team thought it was time for a change.
Not only will the Bulldogs change venue, but they will substitute the Louisville Slugger for Easton.
The Bulldogs will compete in the McCracken County Wooden Bat Tournament held in Kentucky on April 11 and 12.
"They've tried to get us in it the last two years but we never could correspond the date because it conflicted with another tournament," said Sikeston head coach Kevin Self. "And this year, since we had won the Greene County Tech Tournament four years in a row, we felt like it was time to go to another tournament and try something different."
Twelve teams round out the field for the four-site tournament to be held in Heath, Reidland, Lone Oak and Paducah.
Sikeston will play on Friday at Heath High School against Heath at 3 p.m. They will then play Union County, Ky., at 5 p.m.
Sikeston will come back on Saturday with two more games at Lone Oak. They will play Millington, Tenn., at 1 p.m. and follow that up with Lone Oak at 3 p.m.
"They supply the bats, so we won't have to bring our own," said Self. "A lot of our kids have been swinging wooden bats anyway because it helps with bat speed. They're heavier than aluminum bats. So if you can swing a wooden bat in batting practice and you pick up that aluminum bat it's a lot lighter. And that creates more bat speed which gives you more pop. And obviously it's helped."
It certainly has.
The Bulldogs were off to a 4-0 start heading into Saturday's game with St. Dominic.
They've out-scored their opponents by a combined score of 55-8, averaging 13.8 runs per game.
The Bulldogs are hitting .505 as a team. Leading the way is junior outfielder Nathan Eaves, who is 9-for-11 this year for an .818 batting average.
Returning all-stater Blake DeWitt has been the biggest run producer thus far, batting .583 with two home runs, 14 runs batted in and nine runs scored.
Lance Rhodes is batting .571 with a team-leading three home runs with 10 RBIs. Jacob Priday leads the team with four doubles and a triple while batting .666.
Sophomores Cullen DeHart and Richard Landers have been pleasant surprises so far, batting .750 and .500 respectively.
But Self figures some of Sikeston's gaudy offensive statistics will come back to earth after swinging the wooden bats.
"It's going to be different," said Self. "The ball's not going to jump. A wooden bat is not going to hit it out of site. So I'd dare to say there's not going to be near as many runs scored in these games as you'd see in normal high school games. I would expect you to see a lot of people pitching inside, trying to saw-off the hitters."