(Photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- For the Sikeston Bulls, Wednesday's doubleheader sweep against first place Fulton might have been the low-point in the season.
But as low as Sikeston was, the Bulls bounced back with a complete 180 on Thursday, defeating the Railroaders 10-0.
With Fulton up three games on Sikeston in the standings after Wednesday's doubleheader, Thursday's game was a "must-win" contest according to Bulls coach Jamie Puckett.
"Tonight we came to play baseball and we knew that we had to win," said Puckett. "It was the only way to stay in the race that we're in right now. The guys came out and were focused for nine innings.
Instead, Sikeston (12-11) cut the Railroaders' lead to two games in the standings as the Bulls approach the season midpoint.
For Fulton, Thursday's game was a chance to keep the foot on the jugular, but it couldn't have gone worse for the Railroaders.
"Our guys just weren't into it the entire game," said Fulton coach David Estes. "There was no intensity and no focus. We had several errors, a lot of walks and a lot of hit by pitches -- you're going to lose every time."
Fulton (14-9) even had one of its best pitchers on the mound in Corey White, but the right-hander just could not find the strike zone, despite having college scouts in the stands.
White only allowed three singles, but he hit three batters and walked four to account for five Sikeston runs in 3 1/3 innings pitched.
"He's one of our two best," said Estes of White. "He was undefeated this year and just didn't have his good stuff tonight. He wasn't focused. I told him that when I went out to the mound to take him out."
Sikeston's big inning came in the bottom of the third as White's control abandoned him.
The Bulls scored four runs without collecting a hit as White hit two batters, walked three, along with a crucial error that led to the big inning.
It proved to be more than enough for Sikeston pitcher Robert Anders, who threw the complete-game shutout.
Anders struck out six, walked four and allowed just six hits.
Sikeston's defense behind him was nothing short of stellar, as the Bulls turned four inning-ending double plays.
"All Robert does is throw strikes," said Puckett. "He doesn't throw that hard -- I don't even know if he breaks 80, but he uses his defense. We've got the best defense in the league and when you use them, you see what happens."
Sikeston increased the lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning off an RBI-single by Robbie Hohler.
With relief pitcher Jeff Sciba in the game for Fulton, Sikeston's offense went to work.
Scott Hudgins had an RBI-single in the sixth to make it 6-0.
Troy Sitton added a run-scoring single in the seventh.
Derrick Washington and Mason Mosby each had RBI-singles in the eighth.
"It was good to see the bats come around, especially after last night," said Puckett. "They had one of their top guys on the mound and we caught him on a bad night. We put the ball in play and we cut down on our strikeouts. When you put the ball in play, anything can happen."
One day after combining for seven hits in a doubleheader, Sikeston collected nine hits on Thursday.
Overall, Fulton's three pitchers combined to hit five batters, walk five and commit two errors, both of which led to unearned runs.
Estes said his team took the Bulls lightly after his team's dominant showing on Wednesday.
"Our guys definitely overlooked them, and it showed," said Estes.
"We had no intensity. Anybody that watched the game knows this was not the team that was here yesterday."
Hudgins led Sikeston, going 2-3 with two runs and an RBI.
Hohler went 1-2, but had a tough day at the plate, getting hit by a pitch three times, including one that nailed him square on the kneecap when he turned to bunt.
Despite being in obvious pain, Hohler remained in the game. He scored two runs and had an RBI.
Washington went 2-5 with an RBI and two runs. Mosby and Sitton each had two RBIs.
Chase Kittinger went 1-2 with an RBI and a run.
Michael Sadler went 1-4 with a run. Ryan Poole scored two runs.
Adam Williams went 3-3 to lead Fulton.
Sikeston will travel to play Union City tonight and tomorrow night.
They will play at Farmington on Sunday.
The Bulls return home on Tuesday when they host Farmington in a doubleheader starting at 5:30 p.m.