(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- For the Sikeston Bulldog seniors, the 2010 regular season ended just how they wanted it to. A far cry from last year's finish.
Off the field issues mixed with a loss to the New Madrid County Central Eagles for the first time in recent memory, had the Bulldogs in a funk that carried into the district tournament last year.
The end of the 2010 season is the exact opposite. They avenged that historic loss to the Eagles on Wednesday and currently are on a five-game winning streak. It also gave them a chance to reflect on the differences from a season ago.
"A lot of people would say we exceeded expectations this year," Sikeston senior Jason Isaacs said. "But, coming into this year, we all knew that we had a chance to win a lot of games if we all did our part and worked hard.
"Last year we worked hard but, I don't think we believed as much as we did this year that we could do some good things."
After handing the Eagles a 9-4 loss and winning, possibly, for the last time at VFW Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, they seem pleased and are prepared for what lies ahead in the Class 4, District 1 tournament.
"It just picks the team up," senior Kai Lambert said about the win. "I think we're ready for Saturday now."
If the same bats that cranked out 13 hits against NMCC show up, the Bulldogs should be ready for whatever comes their way. Senior Jordan Williams ended his final regular season game in grand fashion with a 4-for-4 day including a home run, a triple and two singles.
"Just had to finish up the senior year strong," Williams said. "It could be my last game here so, it feels good to end it with a home run."
Williams' triple came on the second pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning to spark the Sikeston offense. They scored three runs on four hits in their first at-bat setting the tone for a big day at the plate.
"We came out and swung the bats pretty well," senior Cody Rice said. "We had good pitching behind us and that's all we needed."
Sophomore Trent McMillan was given the nod going five innings and giving up all four of NMCC's runs. The Eagles were able to tie the game at three in the top of the second inning after a two-out, two-RBI single from Colin Ivie made it 3-3.
Sikeston answered, however, with Williams' home run to left in the second, an RBI double by Isaacs in the third, a two-run double by Nathan Rodgers in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
"(NMCC) came in ready," said Lambert. "We were on top for most of the game but, we just had the right hits and the right plays at the right time."
Lambert relieved McMillan to start the sixth inning. He closed out the final two innings only allowing one runner on base with a walk in the seventh. That runner was erased on a 4-3 line-out double play by Luke Keefer to end the game and get the Bulldogs ready for district play.
"I think it's all falling into place for us," said Isaacs. "We're hitting the ball well and we're playing defense well. At the beginning of the year, we'd either play defense well or hit well."
Alongside Williams at the plate, Isaacs, Rodgers and Blake Newman added two hits apiece. Rodgers' two hits were both doubles while Isaacs and Tyler Anderson each added a double as well.
The Eagles came away with three hits on the day with Ivie, Sam Barnett and Tripp Keene doing the hitting. Barnett had an RBI double in the second inning while Keene singled in the fourth.
"There was some routine plays that we just didn't make and that gave them an extra outs," NMCC head coach John Jones said." That was the difference in the ball game."
NMCC ended the regular season with a 3-21 record, a bit deceiving from how they have finished the season. The Eagles have lost eight games by two runs or less this year and believe that their improvements over the season has them as ready as ever going into the Class 3, District 1 tournament.
"They've always worked hard," Jones said. "But, now they're starting to believe that maybe they can compete with those guys.
"As the season progressed, there were some ups and downs. Realistically, we could be around .500 and that's not bad for a bunch of freshmen and sophomores."
The Sikeston Bulldogs will be looking for a bit of revenge when they enter districts. Their first round opponent will by North County, the same team that bounced the Bulldogs in the first round last season. A school they have had some recent history with.
"I think we're ready to go," said Williams. "We go out for revenge. We have that in our mind. We had them the first round of football too, so we have to come out strong."
The four seniors the Bulldogs are fighting to keep their season going for vastly improved on their 9-11 regular season from last year with a 17-7 record in their current campaign. They're not ready to see their season come to an end.
"They know this is it," Sikeston head coach Kevin Self said. "If we don't play well now, then their season could be over. From this point on, if you have a bad game, then we pack everything up."
"I'm glad we left with a win," Isaacs added. "As much as we've done this season, we have to completely put it behind us. We don't have the time to think about anything but districts and North County.
"I think it's all coming together. Everybody sees that we have a good chance to win this."
NMCC 030 010 0 -- 4 3 2
Sikeston 311 220 x -- 9 13 3
WP -- Trent McMillan. LP -- Jimmy Ash. Multiple hitters -- (S) Jordan Williams 4-4, Blake Newman 2-4, Nathan Rodgers 2-4, Jason Isaacs 2-3. 2B -- (N) Sam Barnett; (S) Tyler Anderson, Rodgers 2, Isaacs. 3B -- (S) Williams. HR -- (S) Williams.