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Five-run rally lifts Bulldogs over East Prairie in seventh

Friday, May 6, 2011

(Photo)
Sikeston catcher Caleb Pruitt applies a tag to East Prairie's Aaron Miller on Thursday at Hillhouse Park in Charleston. Miller was out on the play.
(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
sports@standard-democrat.com

CHARLESTON -- Trailing by four runs in the final inning of Thursday's game against East Prairie, the Sikeston Bulldogs put together the kind of rally a team can build on heading into the final week before the district tournament.

Looking at an 8-4 deficit and down to their final out in the seventh frame, the Bulldogs strung together five runs on four hits and two walks in the frame to take the lead and hold on for a 9-8 win.

"When you come from behind in that situation, with two outs and you're still down four runs, that says a lot for (our team)," Sikeston coach Kevin Self said. "Because they're going to believe that the next time they get in that situation they can get it done because it's happened before.

"It builds confidence and that's what we need right now. Getting ready to get to districts we need confidence in ourselves and in each other."

Playing at Charleston's Hillhouse Park due to the strain recent weather's put on both team's fields, Sikeston saw the Eagles put together three and five run rallies in the second and third frames on their way to a 8-3 lead after five innings of play.

After cutting a single run off their deficit in the sixth, the Bulldogs enter the seventh with the top of their order up to bat. Starting things off, leadoff hitter Luke Keefer hit a single up the middle, followed by a Tyler Anderson walk to leave runners on first and third with no outs.

Unable to push a run across in the next two at bats, as a pop up and strikeout left the Bulldogs with two outs, Sikeston soon found themselves one mistake from their fifth loss of the season.

Coming up clutch, however, Drew Harper hit a line drive to center, scoring Keefer from third to make it a 8-5 ball game.

Still down by three with the bases loaded a short while later, the Bulldogs got one of the biggest breaks of the game when Trent McMillan hit a towering pop up to shallow right field that looked playable by the Eagles' defense.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, the ball fell between East Prairie defenders after getting lost in the lights, allowing another two runs to score to close Sikeston to within one.

Finally, with runners on second and third, No. 8 hitter Even Underwood hit a bloop shot just out of the back tracking second baseman's reach to score both the tying and winning run of the game.

"It snuck over his glove," Underwood said. "Fortunately I was able to fight it off just enough."

Added Self, "He hit it in a good spot. It's not how hard you hit it, it's where you hit it.

"To me, he took the breaking ball in the dirt and he was seeing it good so I really felt like he'd put a swing on it and I felt like he'd hit it to right field."

Sealing the win, relief pitcher Cord Sheehy got two straight pop ups to start the bottom of the seventh before getting a called third strike on East Prairie's No. 7 hitter to end the game.

"We were swinging it pretty well and putting it in play," Underwood said of the comeback. "That was biggest thing just making them make the plays."

Coming in to replace McMillan on the mound in the fourth with two outs, Sheehy picked up the win. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three in 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

"He grew up a bunch today because he came in closed that last inning," Self said. "He didn't walk anybody and he was in control.

"We've got four guys now that can really throw and throw strikes and so hopefully that will make a difference down the road. But (Sheehy) really did a good job coming in in relief."

With 12 hits on the contest, the Bulldogs got a big lift from the bat of McMillan. Going 3 for 3 on the night with a double and a home run, McMillan batted in five runs for Sikeston. Keefer, Harper and Blake Newman all added two hits to the team's cause.

For the Eagle's, who combined for seven hits, Connor Scott and Aaron Miller had two hits each, including a double by Scott.

"I felt like we played well," East Prairie coach Gary Scott said. "We made a couple of mistakes, but really I don't think it's anything we did, with the exception of maybe one play that hurt us.

"I give credit to Sikeston. They battled back and they didn't give up. They came up with a big inning there when they needed it and we just couldn't close the door."

With the loss, the Eagles drop to 6-7 while the Bulldogs move to 10-4.

Sikeston 001 201 5 - 9

East Prairie 031 400 0 - 8

WP -- Cord Sheehy. LP -- Connor Scott. 2B -- (S) Luke Keefer, Blake Newman, Trent McMillan; (EP) Connor Scott. (HR) -- (EP) McMillan.