(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- It's a win New Madrid County Central needed heading into districts.
It was also a loss the Sikeston Bulldogs possibly couldn't afford.
The Eagles defeated Sikeston 4-3 Wednesday at VFW Stadium by quieting the Bulldogs' lineup behind the arms of Kyle Harris and Denton Daugherty.
"This was a great win for us," NMCC head coach Joseph McClarty said. "We just talked about playing two solid baseball games this week and we did that. We did all the small things to win a baseball game today."
Sikeston has lost five of their last seven games. Four of those losses have been by two runs or less.
"We just waited too long today to start hitting the ball," Sikeston head coach Alan Scheeter said. "We had something brewing early in the game and got one run, but I would have liked to have seen us get more than that.
"Other than that, we really didn't have a whole lot of chances."
NMCC solidified their first winning season in recent memory by moving their record to 13-11.
Daugherty picked up the win on the mound pitching the last three innings, which included a teeth-chattering bottom of the seventh when Sikeston came knocking on the door.
Down 4-1 entering their half of the seventh, the Bulldogs strung together three hits including a two-RBI double by Tyler Anderson to cut NMCC's advantage to just one run.
Although faced with having to put the winning run on first base, Daugherty held strong and coaxed a fly ball to centerfield that ended the game.
"They made plays and didn't really give us too many opportunities," Scheeter said about NMCC. "They just played a real good ball game. They out-played us today and deserved to win more than we did."
Cord Sheehy pitched all seven innings for the Bulldogs in another hard-luck loss. He gave up three earned runs on eight hits, two walks and two hit batters. He also struck out three.
"He was getting ahead of hitters and had good stuff," said Scheeter about Sheehy. "He pitched well enough to win, we just gave him no support. I just feel bad for our pitchers who throw like that and don't get any run support. You hate to see that for your kids."
Harris threw the first four innings for the Eagles, giving up one run on four hits.
"Kyle's been a big starter for us all year long," McClarty said. "We made the decision to have Kyle throw four and Denton throw three. It fortunately worked out for us."
Daugherty gave up two runs on three hits -- all in the seventh inning.
"He came in and threw strikes," McClarty said about Daugherty. "Sometimes I tell him that he throws way too many strikes, but he does a good job of working the plate up and down."
Sikeston struck first in the third inning when Luke Keefer kept the frame going with a two-out double. Anderson knocked in the Bulldogs' first run with a single.
NMCC took the lead during the sixth on a bases loaded walk to Tim Clayton and an RBI groundout by Josh Reed. They added their fourth run in the seventh on a double by Jayshawn McDaniel that scored Jimmy Ash.
"We got some good swings on (Sheehy)," McClarty said. "We didn't strike out a lot and we put the ball in play and made their defense work. As we saw him more throughout the game, we seemed to get even better swings on him."
Despite two errors, the NMCC defense did more than enough to back both their pitchers. Ash played a stellar shortstop making nearly every play that came his way.
At one point, Ash dove to his right snagging a hot-shot towards the hole while laying parallel with the infield. He shot to his knees and made the long throw to first for the first out of the third inning.
"A bunch of kids played well defensively," said McClarty. "Jimmy Ash one of the best plays I've seen all year. That's something we've been doing, we've just really turned it on defensively."
The Eagles tied the game in the fifth when a Bulldog error allowed Sam Barnett to cross the plate.
Defensive miscues have plagued Sikeston during the current slump. Out of their last five losses, they have committed 22 errors -- a trend they hope to buck come this weekend.
"We've got to do something," Scheeter said. "We've got two days of practice left before we host the districts. I don't want to play one round and done and play the gracious host. I know this team has talent enough to at least compete for a district title.
"If we play they way we're capable of playing, we're going to be pretty tough to beat. If we don't, head on in to summer ball because it's not going to last long."
Both Sikeston and NMCC will begin district play Saturday.
NMCC 000 012 1 -- 4 8 2
Sikeston 001 000 2 -- 3 7 2
WP -- Denton Daugherty. LP -- Cord Sheehy. 2B -- (NM) Gabe Smith, JayShawn McDaniel 2. (S) Luke Keefer, Tyler Anderson, Sheehy, Andrew Hicks. Multiple hitters -- (NM) Smith 2-4, McDaniel 2-3, Josh Reed 2-3. (S) Anderson 2-4.