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Tourney to decide SEMO's best

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

SIKESTON -- The Sixth Annual SEMO Conference Baseball Tournament will kick things off tomorrow with three play-in games.

The seventh-seeded Sikeston Bulldogs (9-9) will take on No. 10 Kelly (10-6) at VFW Stadium at 4 p.m. while No. 9 Scott City (7-7) visits No. 8 Poplar Bluff (5-9) and No. 11 Chaffee (8-8) travels to play No. 6 Dexter (8-6).

The winner of the Sikeston-Kelly game will play at No. 2 New Madrid County Central (7-5) on Friday at 4 p.m.

The winner of the Scott City-Poplar Bluff game will play at top-seeded Cape Central (13-4) on Friday at 4 p.m. And the winner of the Chaffee-Dexter game will play at No. 3 Kennett (10-2) on Friday at 4 p.m.

The other first round game will pit fifth-seeded Jackson (8-7) at No. 4 Notre Dame (13-5).

Sikeston coach Kevin Self thinks his team is starting to turn the corner after a roller-coaster start to the season.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 12-8, eight-inning victory on Tuesday at Notre Dame.

"We're starting to figure a few things out," said Self. "As long as we continue to swing the bats I like our chances. I think our pitchers will throw strikes. We're still young and we're still learning, but we're 18 games in and we're starting to play better baseball."

Sikeston has dominated the SEMO Conference Tournament since it's inception in 2001, making the championship game all five times and winning the title three times.

Sikeston lost 5-3 to Notre Dame in last year's championship game.

This year Sikeston isn't considered one of the favorites, but Self thinks his team has what it takes to make a run at the title.

"It's kind of been our tournament and we're hoping to keep that streak going," said Self. "There's a lot of parity in the conference. From the seven seed or even the eight seed, I think anybody can win it. It's pretty well balanced. This is one year I don't think you'll see the No. 1 or No. 2 seed necessarily make it there. You may be looking at five or six teams that can win it.

"Kennett, New Madrid and Cape are probably the premier clubs right now with the pitching they've got. Those three probably have the deepest pitching staffs."

NMCC has been the surprise of the conference this year, rolling out to a 4-2 league record to garner the No. 2 seed.

"From the beginning of the year until now, we've played some really decent baseball," said NMCC coach John Jones. "When we're on, we're a good team. When we get our thing together, we can play with anybody. Our chances are as good as anybody's. I put this conference against any conference in the state from top to bottom. Throughout this season we've just beat each other up. On any given day, 1-through-11 has a chance to win it."

Dexter enters the tournament as the No. 6 seed and currently stand at 4-5 in the conference. Many of those losses were one-run defeats, including a 2-1 setback to top-seeded Cape Central on Tuesday.

"Going in I'd say Cape is the team to beat," said Dexter coach Brian Becker. "They've proven all year they're a solid ball team. They're going to have the home crowd fans with them. It's going to be a tough tournament. Any team in this tournament is capable of stringing some victories together.

"I feel like I've got a solid ballclub and feel like we can compete with any team out there. We've lost some close games. Hopefully we can turn some of those close losses into wins. Hopefully we can string a few wins together."

Tournament action will resume on Saturday with all games scheduled to be played in Cape Girardeau at Cape Central High School's varsity and junior varsity fields and Notre Dame High School. Games will start at 10 a.m. and the final games are scheduled to be played at 2 p.m.

The championship games are scheduled to be played on Monday at Capaha Field in Cape Girardeau.

The fifth place game will start at 3 p.m. with the third place game at 5 p.m. and the championship game at 7:30 p.m.