(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- Sikeston's baseball season came to an end Saturday morning, much in the same way as last year, with a loss to the North County Raiders in the first round of the Class 4, District 1 Tournament.
With the second-seeded Bulldogs only able to generate four hits through the first six innings of play, they were unable to keep up with the seventh-seeded Raiders steady run support, falling 6-2.
"You can make all the excuses that you want," Sikeston's coach Kevin Self said. "The point was we didn't make plays early in the game and it cost us runs.
"In a game of this magnitude when you get behind two or three to nothing, then it gets a little tougher to hit. And I felt like it did for us."
North County took the lead in the first inning when, with runners on first and second, Joe Winkel hit a line drive shot up the middle to score Sam Hulsey from second.
The Raiders would go on to score a run in each of the next two innings while holding Sikeston's offense at bay to take a 3-0 lead going into the fourth.
Though the Bulldogs would hold North County scoreless the next two innings they were unable to close gap, stranding two runners in the fourth and one in the fifth.
The nail in the coffin would come in the sixth with Nate Maeys hitting a bases loaded double for the Raiders to score two runs, followed by Jake Smith laying down a sacrifice bunt for North County's final run of the game to give them a 6-0 lead.
After sixth scoreless innings, Sikeston's offense finally came to life in the seventh with a single by Jordan Williams and a double by Nathan Rodgers both scoring a run to cut North County's lead to four while chasing starting pitcher Derek Emily after six and 2/3 frames.
Any hopes of a comeback were dashed, however, when, with runners on second and third with two outs, Jason Isaacs fly out to right to end the game and the Bulldogs season.
"We made too many errors, walked too many people and didn't swing the bats like we should," Williams said. "(Their pitcher) was throwing a straight fast ball and we just weren't hitting it."
Williams, a senior, was one of three Sikeston players to collect a hit in the contest, going 2-for-3 in his final game as a Bulldog.
Nathan Rodgers and Jason Isaacs provided the rest of the Sikeston's offense as Rodgers went 3-for-4 with a double while Isaacs put up a single in the fourth.
Going five innings Sikeston starter Tyler Anderson took the loss. He gave up three runs and five hits while walking five and striking out nine.
"He had a little tough time finding the zone or getting down where he needed to be," Self said. "He wasn't ahead a lot, he was behind and that's where they hurt him."
Sikeston finishes the season with a 17-8 record and wins in five of its last six games.
Although the last two years may have ended in the same way, Self sees a big difference in this year's squad and the one that went 9-12 last season.
"This year, unlike last year when we didn't play well the last two weeks of the season, we did play well the last two weeks, we just didn't play the last game," he said. "I felt like from last year to this one we didn't have a lot of guys with varsity experience and I thought we had a lot of guys gain valuable experience this year and play well at the same time.
"You go from where we went last year to 17-8 this year. If you would have told at the beginning of the year we would have been that, I would have taken it."
North County 111 003 0 - 6
Sikeston 000 000 2 - 2
WP -- Derek Emily. LP -- Tyler Anderson (5-2). Multiple hitters -- (NC) Derek Emily 2-5, Joe Winckel 3-4, Nate Maeys 2-3; (S) Jordan Williams 2-3, Nathan Rodgers 3-4. 2B -- (NC) Winckel, Maeys; (S) Rodgers.