(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- It has been five years since the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs have won a district tournament game.
On Thursday night, that all changed.
It took only two of the four hits that Sikeston had to finish off the Lady Indians and, at least one of them, was a little unexpected.
The first was a shocking home run over the left field fence off the bat of the No. 8 hitter Jamie Reed that gave the Lady Bulldogs a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning.
"She stepped up today and that's something that she needed," Sikeston head coach Tiffany King said about Reed. "She needed that confidence boost. She's been playing a heck of a right field and getting her bat to go is something that we needed right now at this time."
After Reed's solo shot, the Lady Indians got the run right back in the bottom half of the inning after Charissa Miller led off with a double and eventually scored on a fielder's choice play later in the inning.
It remained scoreless for the next two innings which took the game into the eighth inning where the last, and maybe the most important, hit came for the Lady Bulldogs.
With two outs and Emilie Martin standing on second base, Henson strolled to the plate looking for her second hit of the game.
She found it.
Henson sent a ground ball up the middle that just squeaked by the shortstops reach and headed towards center field. As Martin raced for home, so did the throw but she made it just seconds before to score the go-ahead run.
Holding on to a one-run lead Sikeston had to hold the Lady Indians scoreless for the bottom of the eighth.
Jackson was able to have Tory Smith reach third base from a hit, an error and then a groundout that advanced her to third but a ground ball to Krystal King at second base ended the game.
"I knew the girls were focused from the beginning of the week," Tiffany King said. "They were so upset when we got cancelled yesterday. The mental focus has been there and that's something that I have been preaching since day one. I told the girls that the team that comes in mentally focused and ready is going to be the one that will win. And we did that today."
Sarah Hopson received the win for the Lady Bulldogs. She pitched all eight innings and gave up one earned run on seven hits. She was in good control of all of her pitches which is evident because of her walk total which was zero. She also had two strikeouts.
"I can't talk about Hopson enough about her mental focus and just staying focused," King said. "She wants to get down so bad. But, she doesn't. She stays up and the girls are just staying together right now. They are developing as a team."
Henson, Reed and Elizabeth Rains were the only Lady Bulldogs with a hit. Henson went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Reed was 1-for-3 with an RBI and Rains went 1-for-3 with a double in the seventh inning.
"I knew from the start that she would be one of my strongest hitters," King said about Henson. "She hits the ball hard every time she makes contact and today she got some hits out of it. I was proud to see that."
For the most part, King said that solid defense that is being played by both veterans and first-time starters was a big reason for the victory over Jackson. The Lady Bulldogs stranded eight of Jackson's baserunners which is due in large part to their crucial defensive stops towards the later innings.
"Defense is something that I love to work on," King said. "The close games are going to be won by good defense and they really stepped up and played solid defense. I have some girls that are playing a position for the first time this year and that's what I have to have out of them."
Sikeston (15-10) will continue their district title run on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Poplar Bluff where they will take on the Hillsboro Lady Hawks.