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Saturday, Apr. 19, 2014

SHS will look to pitching in 2006

Sunday, March 19, 2006

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Baseball is back
SIKESTON -- For the last eight years, the Sikeston Bulldogs baseball team has been built into, well, a dynasty.

They've won four district championships in the last five years and have won at least 20 games every season for the last six years.

The team has won five district championships in coach Kevin Self's nine years at Sikeston.

With nine seniors, including three all-state players, graduated from last year's 20-6 district title team, is this year the year Sikeston finally comes back to earth?

"I'm sure there's a lot of teams that are licking their chops probably thinking this year the Bulldogs don't have a lot of people back," said Self. "Then again, they thought that last year, but we had a lot of seniors and we had good leadership."

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Sikeston junior Jerod Scott delivers a pitch.
If the Bulldogs are to keep it rolling, Self will need several underclassmen to grow up in a hurry.

Sikeston returns three starters from last year including all-conference performer Tyler Baker and honorable mention player Josh Jackson.

The Bulldogs also return a capable pitcher in Jerod Scott.

But the rest of the lineup will be brand new.

"It's unfair to expect out of these kids what I expected out of 2002, 2003, 2004 and even last year," said Self. "They're going to be their own team and my goal is to win every one that we can possibly win. And if I look up at the end of the year and we've won 20, I will be totally amazed. I would say these kids are like last year in that we were overachievers. But we have a long way to go.

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Sikeston second baseman Austn Williams covers first.
"I don't have any stars out here. I don't have any major college prospects, but they're all going to be pretty good high school baseball players."

Baker is the leading returner as he batted .442 with six home runs and 31 RBIs last year. He also led the team with 17 walks and 10 doubles while scoring 31 runs.

"Tyler is obviously the biggest bat that we've got back," said Self. "I hope he can duplicate that this year. If he can then that will give us a chance to win a lot of games."

Jackson showed the ability to drive the ball out of the park last year as a sophomore. Scott is the only returning player that has pitching experience.

"Josh, Jerod and Tyler are the three that had the most innings last year," said Self. "I'm depending on them because they've played at this level. The other guys had great success at the J.V. level, but there's a huge difference between J.V. and varsity. As of right now, they're kind of unproven.

"We're going to start four or five sophomores on any given day. That means we're going to have inexperience out there and we're going to have some tough games and tough losses. But at the same time, we should get better."

According to Self, the Bulldogs won't have the power they've had in the past, other than Baker. So look for plenty of "small-ball" and fundamental plays on offense.

"This year we will not be able to sit back and wait for the three-run homer like we have in the past," said Self. "We're not real fast so we're not going to steal a lot of bases. We're going to have to play fundamental baseball. We'll have to move guys over, bunt them over, move up on the passed ball. We'll have to run the bases intelligently. We'll have to take every possible advantage to score. Because runs will be at a premium. I don't look for this team to be a high-scoring team."

In addition to Scott, sophomores Garrett Limbaugh and Scott Droddy and junior Joey Williams will see the most time on the mound.

Cody Black and Nick Lambert could also get some innings.

"I expect a lot out of Jerod," said Self. "Hopefully he'll get some help. Those guys that threw well last year in J.V., will have to step up here and throw well. If they can throw well at the varsity level, I think our defense will catch it. If we can throw strikes, I like our chances."

Self also has big shoes to fill defensively as all-state shortstop J.R. Bizzell and third baseman Richard Landers both graduated.

Droddy will take over at shortstop with Cody Anderson and Scott backing up. Scott will see the most time at third with Limbaugh and Jackson backing up.

Baker takes over the first base position while junior Austin Williams and Limbaugh will see the most time at second base.

Sophomore Chase Ferrell will take over the catching duties with junior Dustin Barker, Scott or Jackson serving as backups.

"We'll probably platoon a lot and you'll probably see a lot of substitutions," said Self. "My scorecard will be marked up by the end of the day."

In the outfield, Jackson and Williams will share duties in left field. Senior Andrew Box or sophomore Josh Pierce will see time in center field. And in right field, Lambert, junior Freddie Gilliland or senior Zach Brooks will see playing time.

"I think defensively we'll be okay," said Self. "We're going to make the routine plays, but we're not going to make the spectacular plays. I've got good, strong arms in the outfield and we'll make plays in the infield."

While the Bulldogs may have some talented young players coming up, Self is searching for some leadership this year.

"We need a vocal leader and right now we don't have that," said Self. "Our seniors aren't really outspoken vocal leaders. They're kind of reserved and quiet. We're trying to find our identity and we're trying to find the leaders that will lead this squad."

Sikeston will host the Class 3, District 1 Tournament this season. While Sikeston still has plenty of question marks, so do the other teams in the district.

"I don't think any team is overly talented in our district," said Self. "I think it's wide open. As long as we're playing here, I like our chances. We've been kind of the premier program for the last six or seven years in this area and heck, even the state. We're going to go about business the very same way. We're not going to do anything different. We want to win conference, we want to win district and we want to go to state, compete, and win a state title. Every year I'm vocal about those things."

Sikeston will open the season on Tuesday with a home game against district foe Notre Dame at 4 p.m.