Six-run fifth propels Sikeston to victory

Sunday, May 5, 2002

CAPE GIRARDEAU - For the second year in a row, the Sikeston Bulldogs had a big first round scare in the SEMO Conference Baseball Tournament on Friday night.

In last year's inaugural tournament, the Bulldogs had to overcome a six-run deficit to defeat the Kelly Hawks in the first round.

On Friday, with some timely hitting, and a little luck, the Bulldogs overcame a four-run deficit with six runs in the fifth inning to pull out a 10-7 victory against the Cape Central Tigers.

The win avenged an earlier loss to the Tigers (5-13) this year.

The Bulldogs (14-2) played Dexter on Saturday in the second round of the tournament. Results from that game will be in Monday's edition.

"This is a good, good win for us," said Sikeston head coach Kevin Self. "I don't know what it is about this place but we did the same thing last year. But we had a nice comeback. We really ran the bases well today. That may have been the difference in the game. If the opportunity was there, we took the extra base."

On Friday, the Bulldogs needed a little help from the Tigers in the fifth inning to get some offense going.

It all started when Lance Rhodes popped up a ball in foul territory but the Tigers had some miscommunication on the play and let the ball drop. Rhodes walked on the next pitch.

That opened the floodgates for the Bulldog offense. Travis Deere reached on an error and Adam Garrett hit into a fielder's choice to put runners on the corners trailing 4-1. Sophomore Blake DeWitt came through with a clutch RBI-single to plate Rhodes to make the score 4-2. Sophomore Jacob Priday followed that up with an RBI-single of his own to make it 4-3.

Drew Lawrence came through with the biggest hit, a two-run single up the middle to give the Bulldogs the lead. But on the play, the centerfielder bobbled the ball, allowing Jamie Puckett and Lawrence to move up to second and third. He then threw it away towards the dugout, allowing Puckett to score and Lawrence to reach third.

When the play was over, Sikeston scored three runs on the play to lead 6-4.

"That was the hit of the game," said Self of Lawrence's hit. "He had a great play all the way around, with the hit and then running the bases and getting to third. His base running got us another run."

Lawrence's aggressive running paid off when Chris Cota plated him with a groundout to make it 7-4.

"We made a couple mistakes -- every run in that inning was unearned," said Cape Central head coach Steve Williams. "Any time you do that, you're going to open the door for somebody. To Sikeston's credit, they kicked the door in and took advantage. I thought we out-played them most of the game, but we didn't make the plays in the fifth inning."

The Bulldogs continued to pour it on in the sixth inning, adding three more runs on sacrifice flies by Priday and Lawrence and an RBI-single by Puckett to lead 10-4.

Cape Central put together a final rally in the top of the seventh after an error and back-to-back hit batters. Patrick Slattery then cleared the bases with a double to make it 10-7.

"Coming back like that wasn't surprising to me," said Williams. "Regardless of what our win-loss record is, our team has never quit. All you can ask is that you have the tying run at the plate and have a chance."

After a single, Self replaced Rhodes with Puckett to try to close the deal. With the tying run at the plate, Puckett retired the final three batters, including two strikeouts to record the save.

"I thought Lance and Jamie really came in a threw well tonight," said Self. "They did a good job and gave us a chance to win."

The Tigers started the game on fire, scoring three runs in the top of the first off starter DeWitt. Chris Conrad had an RBI-double off the left field fence and Slattery added a run-scoring single. Slattery eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.

Rhodes replaced DeWitt in the third inning after a leadoff walk to Aaron Dohogne. Rhodes then threw it away on a pickoff attempt, allowing Dohogne to reach third. He then scored on a groundout to make it 4-0.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs had no answer for Tiger hurler John Thies, who only allowed two hits and one unearned run through the first three innings.

"Thies is somebody that we've had trouble with," said Self. "We had no answer for him early -- we were just getting under balls and popping them up. But once Blake hit one hard off him in the fifth inning, it seemed to wake everybody else up."

Thies ended up taking the loss, throwing 4 1/3 innings and allowing five runs (one earned) off four hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

DeWitt got a no-decision for the Bulldogs, lasting just two-plus innings and allowing four runs (three earned) off five hits.

"Blake just didn't have his best stuff today and they were hitting him," said Self.

Rhodes got the win in relief, allowing three runs (two earned) off four hits with five strikeouts and a walk in four-plus innings.

DeWitt went 3-4 with an RBI and two runs. Priday was 2-3 with two RBIs and two runs. Lawrence had three RBIs and Garrett had two runs.

Slattery was 2-4 with four RBIs and Chris Daniel went 2-4 with an RBI for the Tigers.

Cape Central played Scott City on Saturday in the consolation bracket.

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