(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With one swing of the bat, the Sikeston 11U All-Stars went from first to last and, ultimately, out of the Cal Ripken 11U Midwest Plains Regional tournament on Tuesday at the Sikeston Sports Complex.
Sikeston, who was battling for their third straight Regional championship, saw Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada come up big in their last at-bat of the game rallying back from a two run deficit.
Saskatoon's eight hitter, Kade Muggli, hit a frozen rope to left field that scored Thien Gamble from third which gave Canada the win.
"That shot right there was the difference between us being first or being put out of it," Sikeston coach Stacy Pratt said. "We played them tough to the end and I can't really be disappointed with the way we played.
"This one stung. I can't tell you it doesn't hurt."
Sikeston's fate was put into motion on Monday after losing to Emporia, Kan., 8-5. Sikeston needed a win Tuesday to advance into bracket play.
It's a bit of redemption for Saskatoon, though, who have lost their two previous meetings with Sikeston in the last two years.
Sikeston edged Canada 2-0 in last year's Regional tournament in Booneville.
"This year we got the 'W'," Saskatoon manager Dickson Robin said. "The kids are having the time of their life playing baseball here in Missouri. We've got the baseball weather, we're playing under the lights and to beat out a great team like Sikeston, that's a big thing. We have nothing but respect for them."
Sikeston was sitting pretty for most of the game. They broke loose for six runs in their half of the second inning which gave them a four run lead.
Sikeston's starting pitcher, Jarred Sandlin, started the second inning with a solo home run over the centerfield fence. Following back to back walks to Jonah Bles and Zach Watkins with two outs already in the books, Austin Branch tied the game with an RBI double. Noah Brown kept the inning alive with a two run single.
Will Gilmore capped the inning with a two run single.
"We sat back and hit," Pratt said about their second inning. "We've had trouble with some of the slower pitchers in the early innings but there we stayed back. We sort of started hitting it right at people after that."
Although Saskatoon fought back with one run in the second and two in the third, Sikeston still held a 6-5 lead and then an 8-5 lead after their half of the fifth inning.
However, Saskatoon, who has battled back in each of their four pool play games during the tournament including rallying to beat Emporia, Kan., after a 10-3 deficit, kept to their nature and posted one run in the bottom of the fifth and their game-winning three runs in the sixth.
"We've been doing this all week long, fighting back," Robin said. "We sometimes have a bad inning where we give up a few runs but, the kids never give up. We can start a rally at any time."
With one out in the last inning, Saskatoon strung together four straight hits, including RBI singles from Gamble and Brennan Roach to tie the game at 8-8.
"We can hit the ball 1-9," Robin said. "That's showing up in this tournament.
Sikeston's Sandlin, then intentionally walked Eric Trakalo to load the bases and struck out Saskatoon's Madison McCleod.
Sikeston needed just one out to send it into extra innings.
Muggli, though, sit dead-red on the first pitch he saw from Sandlin and sent a screamer to left field that hit off of Sikeston's left fielder, sending the Canadians into a frenzy.
"There's a kid hitting in the eighth slot and he could be hitting in the three spot just as easy," Robin said about Muggli. "He's a great ball player. Every night there's a new hero."
Sandlin, who pitched all six innings for Sikeston, surrendered Saskatoon's first two runs in the bottom of the first when Gamble, who pitched five innings, hit a two run double.
Sikeston ended pool play with a 2-2 record but it wasn't enough to keep their season going in a very tough and stacked field, which included losses to Emporia, Kan., and Saskatoon.
"We did everything right," Pratt said, "but that's baseball. It came down to head to head and run differential. If we would have won the game against Kansas, we wouldn't have had to worry about this game.
"It's a hard loss. I'm proud of our boys though."
Saskatoon, who finished 3-1 in pool play, will play Lamar, Colo., at 2:30 p.m. today in the quarterfinals of bracket play.