A doubleheader sweep of the Stoddard County All-Stars at V.F.W. Memorial Stadium on Sunday boosted Sikeston to the Missouri state Junior Babe Ruth League Championship for 14-year-olds.
Sikeston entered Sunday's play with its back against the wall. The All-Stars came in having already dropped one game in the double-elimination tournament and needing two wins over undefeated Stoddard County to extend their season and advance to regional competition.
"Our kids showed a lot of heart to come back and beat one of the best teams in Missouri two consecutive games," said Sikeston coach Ken Dicus. "They played outstanding."
A 4-1 win on Saturday over Mineral Area, a team which had handed Sikeston a 6-2 loss on Friday, kept the All-Stars' hopes alive and set up the Sunday heroics.
In the must-win first game, Sikeston shut out Stoddard County 2-0 on stellar performances by winning pitcher Timmy Hart and closer Logan Gilmore.
Hart hurled six innings of one-hit ball with nine strikeouts and Gilmore tossed a scoreless seventh to save the victory.
"Our kids stepped up," said Dicus. "That's the kind of game we needed from Timmy and Logan got the job done again."
With Stoddard County starter Garrett McKuin matching Hart pitch for pitch, Sikeston broke up the scoreless duel with two runs in the fourth inning.
Hart, who had singled and advanced to third base, scored on an errant throw to the plate on Jake Pewitt's fielder's choice grounder. Pewitt took second on the wild throw and later scored on Zach Howard's RBI double.
Stoddard County put two aboard with one out in the sixth, but Hart quelled the threat with back-to-back inning-ending strikeouts.
Sikeston's defense, solid all day, committed only two errors in the twinbill while making all the routine plays and an occasional spectacular one.
Hart, who had moved to shortstop with Gilmore on in relief in the seventh, turned in the defensive gem of the game with a diving stab of a looping liner up the middle for a key second out in the final frame.
Sikeston managed just enough offense with Charlie Bohannon, Ethan Lee, Blair Bohannon, Howard and Hart splitting the team's five hits.
McKuin had the lone Stoddard County safety.
In the championship game, Sikeston pitching again silenced Stoddard County bats in a 5-2 win.
Starter Caleb Davidson, winning pitcher Gilmore and Hart combined on a three-hitter.
Stoddard County drew first blood with two runs in the second inning off Davidson. A leadoff single by McKuin, his stolen base and a bunt single by Nick Hessling put runners on first and third with no outs.
Davidson's balk allowed McKuin to score and Hessling to advance to third where he was squeezed home on a bunt by Sawyer Smith.
Just as in the opener, the fourth inning was huge for Sikeston as it took the lead at 3-2.
Hart's bunt single, Sikeston's initial hit, opened the frame. A pickoff attempt, in which Hart looked like a sure out, was botched allowing Hart to slide safely into second base ahead of a poor throw.
Pewitt's RBI single scored Hart. Then, with Pewitt at third, Howard singled him home with the game-tying run. Following Howard's consecutive stolen bases, Stephen Beydler's two-out bloop over third base fell in to send Howard home.
Sikeston tacked on a single run in the fifth when Charlie Bohannon scored on Lee's liner to left field and an unearned run in the seventh. Hart walked, stole second and third, then scored on an infield error.
Stoddard County scored a meaningless run in the bottom of the seventh as their season ended with the bases jammed.
Howard led Sikeston with two hits in three trips, while Hart, Pewitt, Beydler, Gilmore and Blair Bohannon added single hits apiece.
McKuin, Hessling and losing pitcher John Smith shared Stoddard County's three-hit total.
The Sikeston All-Stars meet the Nebraska state champion in a regional matchup at Lamar, Colo., on Thursday at 11:30 a.m.