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Bluejays stun Sikeston in extra innings, 9-8

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Members of the Charleston Bluejays celebrate a game-winning hit by teammate Michael Baugh in the eighth inning on Tuesday against Sikeston at Hillhouse Park in Charleston. The Bluejays ended a five-game skid with a 9-8 win over Sikeston. Chris Pobst, Staff
CHARLESTON -- For a team on a five-game losing skid, there is no better way to snap the streak than to beat an arch rival.

The Charleston Bluejays did just that on Monday afternoon as they defeated the Sikeston Bulldogs 9-8 in eight innings at Hillhouse Park.

Charleston's Michael Baugh provided the heroics with a walk-off single to centerfield to bring in Ethan Browning for the game-winning run.

As thrilling as the victory was for the Bluejays, it was demoralizing and disheartening for the Bulldogs, who let the lead slip away three different times in the game.

"We made mistakes defensively but they did too," Sikeston coach Kevin Self said. "We battled but we couldn't make enough plays. In the long run, when we couldn't make the defensive plays they ended up costing us because they'd get the hits to beat us."

In the bottom of the eighth, the Bluejays started the inning with back-to-back singles.

With Baugh looking to bunt, Sikeston uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners up to second and third. With the outfield pulled in and nobody out, Baugh laced a line drive over the centerfielder's head to bring in the winning run.

"What a boost for his confidence," Charleston coach Michael Minner said of Baugh. "He knocked the snot out of the ball there. Luckily, we were going to bunt there, but we got the wild pitch and we got runners in scoring position and it changed our whole focus."

Sikeston (7-3) held leads of 5-1, 6-5 and 8-6 but each time the Bluejays (5-6) would rally behind timely hitting and costly defensive mistakes by the Bulldogs.

"I just can't say enough about my kids, after losing five in a row, to stay in the ballgame with a good Sikeston team and to keep battling," Minner said. "We needed something good to happen and finally something good has happened. We deserved this win. For as hard as we've been fighting and as hard as we've been working, by God we deserve a win. This one will turn some heads."

Charleston senior James Naile was the winning pitcher, throwing a complete game and overcoming numerous errors by his defense.

He struck out 11 and walked three while allowing 10 hits. Only three of the eight runs he allowed were earned.

"He's one of the better pitchers in the area and he's got good stuff and we hit him pretty hard," Self said of Naile. "We scored a lot of runs. We had the lead in extra innings and couldn't hold it."

The Bulldogs had a 3-0 lead in the top of the first when a dropped fly ball with two outs and the bases loaded led to all three runners scoring.

"We've got to find a way to make some routine plays," Minner said. "Those are balls that have got to be outs. I just told James to keep battling and keep fighting and you can't get your head down."

The Bluejays got a run back in the bottom of the first, but Sikeston scored two more runs in the top of the second on Tyler Anderson's inside-the-park home run that sailed over the center fielder's head and rolled all the way to the 399-foot mark in center.

Charleston quickly tied the score in the bottom of the second with four runs highlighted by Trey Watkins' two-run double and Naile's run-scoring single to tie it.

In the top of the fourth Sikeston took a 6-5 lead on Nathan Rodgers' RBI-single to right.

The Bluejays finally tied it in the bottom of the sixth on Naile's bloop RBI-double down the left field line to bring in Marshall Stallings.

Just prior to that, Sikeston hurler Trey Tigart, with two outs, had Stallings picked off of first base, but the Bulldogs botched the run-down and Stallings advanced safely to second.

"That's the ballgame right there," Self said. "If we make that play then we win the game."

The inning could've been worse as the Bluejays ended up loading the bases, but Bulldog left fielder Jacob Wilson saved further damage with an all-out diving catch on a line drive by Baugh.

"At that time, it saved the game," Self said. "It was a great catch -- that's why he's out there."

The Bulldogs seemed to recover as they plated two runs in the top of the seventh on Luke Keefer's two-run single up the middle to lead 8-6.

But once again Charleston had an answer, this time a two-out single to centerfield by Watkins to tie the game at 8-8.

"We moved him to the two-hole -- he's a kid that struggled last year," Minner said of Watkins. "But we just got him choking up on the bat and he's been swinging it real good in practice. What a job for a sophomore to go up there in that situation with the horses behind him and to step up and get that big hit. What a tremendous job."

Naile then pitched a scoreless eighth to set up the Bluejays' winning rally in the bottom half of the inning.

"They seemed to hit bleeders out there all day and then we came in on the last play and they hit it over our head," Self said. "I credit them. They hit the ball when they needed to and made plays when they needed to."

Cord Sheehy started for the Bulldogs, throwing one-plus inning before being pulled for Tigart, who threw six innings.

Tigart allowed six hits and two runs while striking out six in getting the no-decision.

Keefer was saddled with the loss as he came in for relief in the eighth.

Anderson went 2-5 with two RBIs and three runs. Keefer and Rodgers also collected two hits apiece.

Watkins, Stallings and Naile each had three hits for the Bluejays. Browning had two hits.

"James Naile was absolutely phenomenal on the mound and he battled his tail off all day," Minner said. "That's just a quality win for our program and one we were in dire need of. This is what we've expected out of our guys and hopefully this is what gets us going."

Sikeston 320 100 20 -- 8

Charleston 140 001 21 -- 9

WP -- James Naile. LP -- Luke Keefer. 2B -- (C) Watkins, Naile, Stallings. HR -- (S) Anderson.