Bulls 'win' exhibition
SIKESTON -- The new-look Sikeston Bulls kicked off the season on Monday evening with an exhibition game at VFW?Stadium against the Riverdogs, based in Charleston.
Although the game and statistics won't count towards season stats, the Bulls, with virtually an entirely different team from last year, defeated the Riverdogs 10-1.
Heading into the season Bulls head coach Jamie Puckett was concerned with the depth and quality of his pitching staff.
But after Monday's performance, he's reevaluating that stance.
"Our pitching was very impressive tonight -- I do not think pitching is our downfall," said Puckett. "I know it's only the first game and they only pitched one inning, but they were pretty impressive. I think our pitching is going to be alright.
"It's nice to have a deep pitching staff. Going into the season I didn't think we were going to have enough arms. I think we have a pretty decent bullpen and our starting pitching is going to be there. We only had two walks the whole night and that's exactly what we're looking for."
Puckett used nine different pitchers, one in each inning.
For the most part all nine threw strikes consistently and kept the Riverdogs bats quiet.
The Bulls defense was also sharp, turning a couple nifty double plays and playing solid all over the field.
But as sharp as the Bulls pitching and defense was, the team never could get much offense going. Most of the team's runs were a result of walks and hit batters by the Riverdog pitching staff.
"The hitting will most definitely come around," said Puckett. "We didn't hit well tonight, but situational hitting -- moving runners over to third, sacrifice flies -- we can handle the bat and that's good to see."
The Bulls, led by leadoff batter Derrick Washington, showed speed and quickness on the basepaths, something Puckett says he will take advantage.
"We have a fast team and I love aggressive baseball," said Puckett. "We're going to hit-and-run, bunt, steal bases -- they love to run and you're going to see that a lot this year."
The Bulls got a couple late additions to the team in John Simpher and Trey Graviett, who are graduates of Kelly and Oran High Schools respectively.
Both threw one scoreless inning in the game.
The Bulls, comprised of college players, compete in the wooden bat Kitty League. They will open the season on Friday at Owensboro (Ky.) The Bulls' home opener will be Thursday, June 7 at 7 p.m.
The Riverdogs are an independent team comprised of various players in the region, most notably former Kelly High School and Southeast Missouri State standout Denver Stuckey, who is currently the head basketball coach and assistant baseball coach at Oran.
Riverdogs coach Robin Minner used the exhibition to get playing time for his players.
"We just wanted to give everybody a shot and get everybody in the game and get everybody's feet wet," said Minner. "We wanted to do better, sure, but I saw a lot of good things. We've got guys that haven't played since last year so it will take a while to get the bugs out. I thought we looked okay defensively. On offense we hit the ball pretty good -- we had a couple hard outs."
The Riverdogs play an independent schedule against other independent teams. They will compete in the National Baseball Congress Tournament in Cape Girardeau at the end of the season for the chance to play in the NBC World Series in Wichita (Kan.).
"That's really what we play for, but other than that we just want to have a good time," said Minner.