(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- A deep fly ball into centerfield from Cape Girardeau Ford & Sons Post 63's Dustin Crowden in the top of the first inning screamed bases-clearing double as soon as it left his bat.
Almost everyone, including Post 63 coach Steve Williams and all three runners on base, was thinking that Crowden's hard hit ball was going to get down and give Cape the early lead -- everyone accept Post 114 center fielder Trey Johnson.
Johnson was able to gallop back towards the centerfield fence and make a difficult, over-the-shoulder grab, signaling a roar from the crowd and a panic on the base paths.
"He smoked it," Johnson said about Crowden's hit. "I was just trying to get back there as hard as I could. I finally got back there to it."
The catch itself would have sufficed as a rally killer, but a quick throw to second baseman Bryan Freed followed by a toss over to Ross Bohannon at first completed a triple play.
"I didn't see any way he was going to catch it," Williams said. "I'm screaming 'come on', our kids are running and (Johnson) makes a great catch and, all of a sudden, we're caught with our hand in the cookie jar."
It turned out to be a pivotal point in Sikeston's 3-2 win over Post 63 on Thursday, which was also Post 114's first district win in two years after their two-win season last year.
"Trey went a long way to get it," Sikeston coach Chris Crosby said. "They're off with the swing of the bat thinking it was in the gap. That's something we haven't done in the past, which is make a play.
"One play can make a big difference in a game and that one did."
Immediately following Johnson's catch, Sikeston put their three runs on the board in the bottom of the first.
Back-to-back walks to Freed and Evan Underwood set the table for a sacrifice bunt from Russell. The sacrifice worked to perfection as both runners moved up a base and was both brought home by the next batter, Bohannon, with an infield single towards the middle of the infield.
"We were able to get guys over to second and third off a bunt, which was huge," said Crosby. "The next guy up gets a single up the middle and both of those runs score. That was big."
Bohannon was eventually pushed across by Stephen Beydler's single down the left field line. A bit of bobbling on the part of Post 63's left fielder allowed Bohannon to truck home and Beydler to second.
After Sikeston gained the early 3-0 lead, it was up to Russell to keep the high-powered Cape Girardeau squad in check which he was able to do.
"Mikey was the key," Crosby said. "He started getting his pitches down and staying around the knees. He started getting some strikeouts with and it was just good pitching on his part."
Russell went the full seven innings allowing two runs, one in the fourth inning and one in the seventh, on eight hits and three walks. Russell also struck out five.
"Mikey threw great," said Johnson. "That's his second game throwing great like that and if he keeps it up, we're going to be okay."
For the most part, Cape Girardeau's Jamie Pickel was just as effective. He allowed Sikeston's three runs in the first inning on two hits and two walks. He then scattered five other hits while blanking Post 114.
"After that first inning," Williams said, "he put zeros up. That's the first time he's pitched in a week and I was real pleased with his effort."
Beydler led Sikeston with two hits, both singles, while Russell, Bohannon, Nathan Holland and Paul Fox each added one single as well. Josh Boese had Sikeston's only extra-base hit with a double in the sixth inning, which was the last batter Pickel faced.
Ryan Grigaitis had two hits, a double and a single, for Post 63. Josh Hiett added an RBI single in the fourth inning for Cape's first run while an RBI double in the seventh by Blake Smith accounted for Post 63's two runs.
Cape 000 100 1 -- 2
Sikeston 300 000 x -- 3
WP -- Mikey Russell. LP -- Jamie Pickel. Multiple hitters -- (C) Ryan Grigaitis; (S) Stephen Beydler. 2B -- (C) Blake Smith, Grigaitis, Skylar Cobb; (S) Josh Boese.