FREDERICKTOWN -- Early signs pointed to a runaway win for the Sikeston Bulldogs but the Fredericktown Blackcats refused to roll over.
Sikeston saw an 11-0 lead evaporate but held on for a 14-9 road win over district rival Fredericktown on Thursday.
"You've got to give them some respect because we're at their place," said Sikeston coach Kevin Self, of the Blackcats' comeback. "I think we put our bats in the bag and said it was over. That'll be something else we can learn, even in victory."
The Bulldogs (8-7) opened the first regular-season meeting with Fredericktown (3-9) with a vengeance, scoring eight runs in the first inning.
The 'Dogs' leadoff hitter Scott Droddy got things rolling with a single to center field. Then, running on the pitch, he beat the throw to second base for an attempted force on Jerod Scott's grounder, putting runners at first and second and bringing up the Bulldogs' leading hitter and RBI man, Tyler Baker.
Baker didn't disappoint, slamming a towering three-run homer well over the rock wall in left-centerfield to send the Bulldogs up 3-0.
After two were out, Chase Ferrell singled, stole second and advanced to third following consecutive walks to Dustin Barker and Austin Williams.
Ninth-place hitter Cody Anderson followed with a line single to right field to score Ferrell and Barker and bump the margin to 5-0.
Next up, Droddy cleared the bags with a drive over the left-field wall for an 8-0 Sikeston lead, chasing Fredericktown starter and loser Taylor Fall in the process.
Sikeston plated three more in the second on yet another three-run homer, the Bulldogs' third in two innings, this one a blast by Barker to center field.
One suspected that somewhere former Baltimore Orioles manager and Hall of Famer Earl Weaver, who based his managing philosophy on the three-run homer, must have been smiling.
Weaver once said, "The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three-run homers."
So, it was all 'Dogs early, running roughshod to a monstrous 11-0 lead.
"I thought we swung the bats about as well as we have all year," said Self, "but they didn't quit."
The young Blackcats, with two freshmen and four sophomore starters, began their comeback in the bottom of the second with five runs. Three of those came around on a -- you guessed it -- a three-run homer by the 'Cats' Ryan Thompson.
A key play in the inning, however, was a one-out suicide squeeze which accounted for the Blackcats' first run.
On a ball bunted back to the mound, Sikeston pitcher Scott's toss to the plate was too late to get the charging runner from third.
Said Self, "The big thing on their comeback in the second was the squeeze play that we should have gone to first base (for the out). If we get that out, then the flyball (next hitter flew out to left) is the third out and they only score one. When you're up 11-0, you don't make that play. They're giving you an out and I'll take that in that situation."
The 'Cats continued to put the pressure on with four more runs in the home half of the fourth frame to cut the lead to 11-9.
"I'm exceptionally proud of the way my kids battled back," said Fredericktown coach Scott Sikes. "Getting down 8-0 in the first and 11-0 in the second, that can really destroy a team, especially as young as we are. That can mentally play with you, but my kids kept fighting."
Self said his team had a chance to fold with the score at 11-9 and momentum firmly on the side of the Blackcats.
But, having been shut down for three innings by reliever Logan Stevens, the Bulldogs awoke with three big runs in the sixth to pad the cushion.
Josh Jackson led off the sixth with a walk, went to second on Ferrell's sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a passed ball for a 12-9 advantage.
Barker singled and stole second ahead of Anderson's walk, then both moved up a base on a passed ball before Droddy slapped a two-run single to center field for his fifth RBI of the game.
"We get a couple of guys on and Droddy gets the big hit," said Self. "He's developing into a guy that can get that done. He had the game-winning hit the other day and he's getting in a position where he doesn't mind hitting in those situations."
Droddy and Baker paced the 12-hit Bulldog offense, each with three hits in four trips. Baker and Barker, who went 2-for-2 with a team-high three runs scored, drove home three runs each and Anderson chipped in with two RBIs.
Scott battled through some rough moments, but finished strong for the win. He allowed nine runs on 11 hits with nine strikeouts and two walks.
Sikes said it was his team's best hitting game of the year.
Self, having now seen several district opponents, feels the Class 3, District 1 playoffs (scheduled for late May) should be a dogfight.
"I'm looking at our district and I think you can put the names in a hat and pull 'em (winner) out," he said. "Anybody that I've seen; anybody can win it. It'll come down to whoever is playing the best that week. Whoever is the hottest will win it and it may be a seventh seed. It's going to be fun baseball. There are going to be a lot of coaches sweating bullets."
Sikeston hosts Farmington today at 4 p.m.