Darkness puts Jackson, Central game on hold until Friday

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

There was plenty of clutch hitting, clutch defense, good pitching and drama.

The only thing in short supply was sunlight.

Suspense gave way to suspension in play Tuesday just as Central's and Jackson's baseball teams were locked in a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning. Play was halted due to darkness.

Umpires stopped the game moments after Josh Ford delivered a game-tying single with one out in the inning, the second straight inning in which the Tigers countered a potential game-winning run scored by Jackson in the top of the frame.

"I could hardly see it," Ford said of the pitch from Jackson starter Austin McDowell that he lined up the middle around 6:30 p.m. "We had the momentum, and we definitely wanted to keep going, but I guess it was a little dark. It was getting harder and harder to see the ball out of the pitcher's hand."

The game will resume at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Central Field with Ford standing on second base, Chris Daniel at the plate and reliever Jason Owen on the mound.

Play was stopped as Owen warmed up on the mound.

"Cape wanted to play, but we couldn't see that last ball come off the bat," Jackson coach Sam Sides said. "The outfielders couldn't see the ball with the background we've got here. If we're going to get beat, I want to get beat because they make a play, not because we can't see the ball. I think that's the fairest thing to do."

Central was looking to improve to 4-0, while Jackson was trying to go to 2-1.

In a pitchers' duel between McDowell and John Thies, it was a series of dramatic plays over the final two innings that drained the fading daylight.

Jackson broke a 1-1 deadlock in the top of the seventh on a two-out flair single to left field by left-handed hitting Tyler Beussink. The hit scored pinch runner Michael James, who had advanced to second on a wild pitch after replacing Brandon Gendron, who drew a one-out walk.

Gendron, a sophomore third baseman, then turned in the defensive play of the game in the bottom of the inning when Central tied the score.

After the Tigers loaded the bases with one out on two walks, a sacrifice bunt and a hit batter, Gendron dove to his left to snare a Chris Conrad grounder and scrambled to his feet to tag out pinch-runner Tyler Blackwell. Blackwell likely would have scored the winning run had the ball gotten through.

"Brandon, for only being a sophomore, he is tremendous," Jackson first baseman Tyler Profilet said. "Playing summer baseball with him, he's made those plays look routine. He's one of our best hitters. He's a heck of a player."

Daniel, who led off the inning with a walk, scored from third on the play, but McDowell retired the next batter, Mitch Craft, on a force play to end the threat and bring on extra innings.

Thies, who yielded seven hits, retired the first two batters in the eighth, the latter with his 11th strikeout of the game. However, a throwing error on a routine grounder kept the inning alive, sending Trevor Thompson to second on the play. Thies then grazed McDowell with a pitch before being lifted for Seth Hudson.

Profilet, who had a line single and lined out twice off Thies, grounded a single to right field off Hudson for a 3-2 lead.

"Coach just told me the last one I got in the eighth inning was probably the worst hit I had all game," Profilet said. "It's not how hard you hit it, but where you hit it."

After hitting Gendron to load the bases, Hudson retired Derrick Biri on a comebacker to the mound.

Aaron Dohogne opened the Tiger eighth inning with a pop fly to shallow right field that fell in front of sliding right-fielder Brad Eaton. Clay Schermann then sacrificed Dohogne to second, setting up Ford's single.

"I was very pleased with their ability to come back," Central coach Steve Williams said. "All good teams have that ability. They always seem to have guys that fight to the bitter end, and that seems to be what we've got."

Dohogne had two of the Tigers' five hits off McDowell, including an RBI single in the first inning.

Jackson countered with a RBI double by Thompson in the fourth inning. Thompson and Profilet each had two of the Indians' eight hits.

Both teams are in action today. Sikeston will visit Central, while Jackson will host Hillsboro. The games are scheduled for 4 p.m.

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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