Riverdogs finally bite Caps

Sunday, June 19, 2005

In salvaging the second game of a doubleheader, the 'Dogs collected their first win over the Capahas in 18 tries.

The Riverdogs were somewhat disappointed that they didn't sweep Saturday's doubleheader at Capaha Field -- because they very easily could have.

But nobody was really complaining too much after a split against the Plaza Tire Capahas allowed the Riverdogs to post their first-ever victory over their Cape Girardeau baseball rivals.

After the Capahas squeezed out a thrilling 2-1, 10-inning victory in the opener, the Riverdogs prevailed 6-2.

So for the first time since they were formed seven years ago, the upstart Riverdogs have beaten the tradition-rich Capahas, who date all the way back to 1894. Plaza Tire had won the previous 17 meetings, including a pair of 10-0, run-rule victories earlier this season.

"It feels real good to beat them," said pitcher Steve Fowler, the hard-luck loser in Saturday's opener. "The tradition of the Capahas' program, all the Division I talent they have, it's special."

Not only did the Riverdogs (3-7) finally break through against the Capahas (8-1), they also handed Plaza Tire its first loss of the season.

"It's exciting just to go out and pitch against them," said Tim Davis, the winner in Saturday's nightcap. "They've got a great program."

Said Riverdogs' co-coach Robin Minner: "We let the first one get away. We should have swept them. All wins are good, not just beating the Capahas. Every time we come out here, we play to win."

Plaza Tire manager Jess Bolen heaped plenty of praise on the Riverdogs.

"They played well and they got good pitching," Bolen said. "They could have won both games. Give them all the credit.

"I knew it would happen sooner or later. In baseball, you just don't keep beating one team over and over. I'm surprised we beat them 17 straight times, to be honest with you."

The Riverdogs' breakthrough victory somewhat overshadowed a pitcher's duel in the opener between Fowler and Plaza Tire's Derek Herbig.

Fowler, a right-hander who graduated from Shawnee (Ill.) High School in 2000 and later played at NAIA Briar Cliff University in Iowa, retired the first 10 batters he faced and allowed just one hit through the regulation seven innings.

Although he was tagged with the loss when the Capahas scored the winning run in the 10th, Fowler allowed just five hits in 9 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts and one walk, although he hit two batters.

"It seems like Steve always pitches well," Riverdogs' co-coach Ray Craft said. "He sure didn't deserve to lose."

Fowler's main problem was that Herbig, a left-hander who recently completed his junior season at Southeast Missouri State, was also dominant.

Herbig, one of the Redhawks' top starters the past two seasons -- although control problems this year helped lead to what he considered to be a sub-par junior campaign -- struck out a whopping 19 batters in working all 10 innings. He allowed six hits and did not issue a walk.

"I struggled this spring, but I've come out and been able to work on some things," Herbig said. "I felt like I could put the ball wherever I wanted."

Added Herbig with a smile: "I've never struck out that many before, and I've never pitched 10 innings before. But I felt good. I felt like I could have pitched another inning or two."

Said Bolen: "I was really impressed with Derek's location. He was putting his curve where he wanted it."

Tyler Schlosser's RBI double in the fourth inning scored Shane Gibson, who had singled, as the Riverdogs went ahead 1-0. The Capahas tied it in the bottom of the fourth on Lance Seasor's RBI double that brought home Seth Hudson, who had been hit by a pitch.

The Riverdogs missed a golden opportunity in the ninth as Billy Palmer led off with a triple but was stranded at third base.

Plaza Tire finally ended things in the 10th. Bryan Austin led off with a double and was sacrificed to third by Josh Ford, who wound up reaching safely when Fowler's throw was wide of first. One out later, Robby Moore put down a successful squeeze bunt that went for a hit and scored Austin.

But the Riverdogs were able to overcome their disappointment by rolling in the nightcap, while overcoming the ejection of Minner and catcher Greg Craft for arguing about the strike zone in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Riverdogs broke through against Chad Bogenpohl -- who went the distance -- with two unearned runs in the fourth, on Andrew DePeder's two-run single. They added another run in the sixth and three more in the seventh -- with two of those unearned -- to lead 6-0.

Davis, a 2003 graduate of Shawnee (Ill.) High School who now pitches for NAIA St. Thomas University in Florida, carried a four-hit shutout in into the seventh before the Capahas reached him for two runs on three hits and a walk.

The Capahas had runners on first and second with nobody out, but Austin McDowell came on to retire three straight batters and nail down the victory.

Davis fanned just one, walked five and hit two batters, but he was able to wriggle out of several jams.

"I really wanted to knock them off, but I'm glad it was the Shawnee connection," said a laughing Fowler.

Plaza Tire had just 12 hits in the two games. Seasor and Austin both had two second-game hits, and each finished with three on the day.

The Riverdogs had 15 hits in the doubleheader. A.H. Marshall had two in the opener while Palmer had two in the nightcap, and both finished the day with three.

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