Dexter missed some golden opportunities on the bases and ran themselves out of some big innings. Bearcat runners were picked off first base twice, Dexter grounded into a double play and had a runner thrown out at home.
"We had a lot of missed opportunities early," said Dexter head coach Brian Becker. "We had some base running mistakes and any time you play against a good team like Kennett, you have to capitalize on every chance you get. If you don't take advantage it will come back to bite you and that is what happened today."
Base running issues popped up early for Dexter. Drew Pixley led off the top of the first for the Bearcats and drew a walk from Kennett starter Shane Branum. After several pickoff throws to first, Branum finally got Pixley leaning the wrong way and picked him off for the first out.
With one out, the next Dexter hitter, Cole Smith, promptly doubled. Next hitter Tyler Moore lined a hot shot to the shortstop who calmly stepped on second as Smith had no chance to recover for the Bearcats.
Dexter starter Austin Matthews was extremely effective through the first three innings against the potent Kennett lineup. Through three complete innings, Matthews gave up only one hit but threw a lot of pitches to record outs. Matthews walked four Indian batters in the three innings.
"We came out and struggled a bit but I thought Matthews was pitching well," said Kennett head coach Bart McAtee. "All year we have had some trouble with lefties. He came out throwing well and we were swinging at bad pitches and taking good ones. Dexter has a good club and they will battle you all the way to the end. They had us on the ropes but we had a couple of big innings to bust out of it."
Dexter wasted another opportunity in the top of the third. Matthews opened the inning with a solid single, but was picked off by Branum. Pixley walked and Smith followed with another double to left centerfield that the speedy Pixley tried to score from first on.
However, the Indians played it perfectly with a good throw from the center fielder to the relay at shortstop, who then made an outstanding toss to home to nail Pixley at the plate. The game remained scoreless after three innings of action.
Dexter finally got one home in the top of the fourth but were left scratching their heads after a spectacular play in left field by Kennett negated a big Bearcat inning.
Moore of Dexter reached on an error to start the fourth. Alex Rigazio followed with a single. Logan Swindle tried a sacrifice and laid down a perfect bunt. Branum fielded the ball for the Indians cleanly, but threw wildly to first allowing Swindle to reach and the bases were full of Bearcats with nobody out.
Josh Stevens popped out for the first out of the inning for Dexter. However, Kyle Cox followed with a sharply hit line drive to left field. Out of nowhere, Kennett left fielder Chase Smith made a sensational diving catch. Moore did tag and score for the Bearcats but the momentum seemed to swing in favor of the Indians after the Smith catch.
Matthews made the last out of the inning for Dexter and the Bearcats led 1-0.
Dexter got their first two runners on base in the top of the fifth. With Branum fading, McAtee brought in senior right hander Heath Storey to stop the bleeding for the Indians. Storey calmly stepped in and struck out the next three Bearcat batters in succession.
"We wanted to save Heath but that saving can get you into some big time problems," said McAtee. "I thought once they got the double off Shane in the fifth down 1-0, I had to get Heath in there. He put out the fire and that is what we expect Heath to do. We have used him three innings but we are going to run him out there tomorrow."
Becker believed that the pitching by Storey was a big switch in the contest.
"It was a big turning point in the game," said Becker. "We had our first two runners on to leadoff the inning and had Cole up. They brought in Storey who we had faced earlier in the season. We knew he could bring it and he comes in adding 10-15 mph on his fastball. I wanted to at least make contact and bunt the runner over. We were not successful, but give credit to Storey. He threw some tough pitches and got Kennett out of a jam."
Kennett's offense responded in the bottom of the fifth, as the first six Indian hitters reached base. Jared Hughes drove in Smith for the first run of the contest for the Indians.
Cody Dawson drew a bases loaded walk for the go-ahead run for Kennett. Paul Harris singled home Robert Lockett to put the Indians up 3-1. Hughes scored the fourth and final run of the fifth on a Josh Lancaster sacrifice fly.
Kennett added three insurance runs in the sixth, as the big blow came from a one out two-run triple by Hughes that put the Indians up 7-1. Ryne Branum also had an RBI-single in the inning.
"Any time you give the other team an extra out it is tough," said Becker. "We were in a position at the time where if we could hold them, you never know what might happen. Kennett extended the lead on us and the rest was history."
While the Indian offense was heating up, Storey was keeping the Bearcat bats cool. In the final three innings, Storey struck out seven and allowed only two hits, as Kennett reached the district final with a 7-1 victory over Dexter.
Smith led the offensive attack for the Bearcats going 3-for-4 with two doubles. Rigazio went 2-4 to round out the multiple hitters for Dexter.
Hughes was the big bat for Kennett going 2-4 with 3 RBIs. Ryne Branum also collected two hits, with two runs scored and garnered an RBI for the Indians. Dexter finishes the year at 11-9.
Kennett (18-5) will face Notre Dame in the district finals today at 4:30 p.m. at VFW Stadium in Sikeston. Notre Dame defeated Sikeston 3-2 in eight innings to advance to the final.