(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- By defeating New Madrid County Central 3-0 on Wednesday at VFW Stadium, the Sikeston Bulldogs clinched the SEMO Conference regular season championship outright.
The Bulldogs finished with an 8-1 league mark and improve to 17-6 on the season.
It's Sikeston's first conference title since 2004. Sikeston coach Kevin Self has now coached the team to seven league titles in the last 10 years.
"I felt like if we played well and got better then we had a pretty good shot of winning it," said Sikeston coach Kevin Self. "I'm proud of our kids being able to do that. We came within an eyelash of winning the conference tournament and the regular season. It's good to get that regular season title back here. Hopefully next year we can keep it here. Maybe later on it'll mean more, but right now all I can think about is winning that district title."
While the accomplishment is a nice footnote on the season, Self is hoping to clean up some problems before Monday's district tournament begins.
"We were missing signs, our heads weren't in the game, we were missing pitches," said Self. "Offensively we just never could make the adjustments at the plate. We were just swinging away and our heads were pulling out. We're still lacking that punch on offense. I knew we'd be hurting in that area. That seems to be the place where we struggled the most."
The Bulldogs only had five hits in the game but they more than made up for it with solid pitching and good defense.
Twice the Bulldogs got out of jams with inning-ending double plays.
The first double play came with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning. Chris Denning rolled a grounder just past the pitcher's mound.
Second baseman Austin Williams fielded the ball, tagged the runner going to second and nabbed Denning at first.
"Sikeston, even on their off days they're good -- we had a chance to score one early and we ran right into a tag there at second base and it was an easy double play," NMCC coach John Jones said. "I wish they had come back and gotten in a run down to at least get the run in. When we've got kids in scoring position we've got to at least get it out of the infield. All our hits were just little dribblers on the infield. Maybe that's due to their pitching."
Sikeston, playing as the away team when NMCC opted to change venues, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on Williams' sacrifice fly to bring in Jerod Scott.
The score remained 1-0 until the top of the sixth when Scott Droddy drove a double into left centerfield to bring in two runs to make it 3-0.
"Scott got the big hit -- that was probably the biggest hit of the game in the sixth inning -- that made the difference in the ballgame," said Self.
The Eagles (3-12, 1-7 SEMO) never could make a dent on offense.
"We had a lot of kids left on base today," Jones said. "A base hit here or there and the outcome might have been different. "We're starting six sophomores and usually in this conference that's a J.V. team. Eight of the ballgames we lost we lost by one run. These kids had to grow up and they were baptized early. They're continuously getting better and the sticks are starting to come around."
NMCC collected five hits in the game but lack of timely hitting kept them off the scoreboard.
Sikeston hurler Droddy was the winning pitcher in five innings of work. He allowed four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Garrett Limbaugh threw the final two innings of relief to close out the game, walking one and allowing one hit.
"I thought Scott threw the ball pretty good," said Droddy. "Defensively we didn't play bad. "We turned a couple nice double plays."
Seth Baker led Sikeston with two hits, including a double and a stolen base.
Matt Carter went 3-3 for NMCC.
Landon Lingle was the losing pitcher, throwing 5-plus innings and allowing four hits and three runs. He struck out one and walked four.
NMCC will resume a postponed game with Charleston today in which the Eagles were winning 4-3 in the top of the fourth inning. The game will begin in the fourth at New Madrid with Charleston batting.
Sikeston got the second seed in Class 3, District 1 and will play on Monday at noon against No. 7 Doniphan. The tournament will be held at Dexter.
Sikeston improved to 8-5 on the season with a 5-3 victory against NMCC. Logan Kirkpatrick threw 3 1/3 innings, allowing three runs off three hits with three strikeouts. Blair Bohannon threw 1 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and one walk with one strikeout.
Vince Howard led the offensive attack with two hits and an RBI. Tyler Selvig had one hit with two RBIs. Bohannon and Stephen Beydler each had one hit.
Sikeston's J.V. team will play Dexter tomorrow in the Junior Varsity Conference Tournament at 4 p.m. at VFW Stadium.
WP - Scott Droddy. LP - Landon Lingle. 2B - Seth Baker (S), Droddy (S). Kyle Marshall (N). Multiple hitters - Baker 2-4. Matt Carter (N) 3-3. Records - Sikeston 17-6. NMCC 3-12.