Ford & Sons powers into district final

Friday, July 25, 2003

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- For all the offense Cape Girardeau's Ford & Sons American Legion baseball team put together Thursday, perhaps the squad's most valuable player was a relief pitcher.

Michael Taylor came in early to close the door on Dunklin County, and Cape eventually exploded for a 16-7 victory in the winner's bracket final of the District 14 Tournament at Harmon Field.

Top-seeded Cape (24-14), the only remaining undefeated squad in the six-team, double-elimination event, advanced to today's 8 p.m. championship game. An if-necessary title contest would be played Saturday.

Second-seeded Dunklin County (14-18) plays at 5 p.m. today against either third-seeded Chaffee or sixth-seeded Jackson in the loser's bracket final, with that winner then meeting Cape. Chaffee and Jackson squared off later Thursday night in an elimination contest that was still being played at press time.

"Our goal all year has been to win the district championship," Cape's Matt Wulfers said. "We're not there yet, but we're close, and we're not about to let up."

Dunklin County scored six runs in the bottom of the third inning to take a 6-4 lead and knock out Cape starter Blake Urhahn. Taylor came on with the bases loaded and two outs, meaning there was little margin for error as he tried to keep the defending district champion from pulling further ahead.

Taylor, a sidewinding right-hander, escaped that jam without further damage and proceeded to allow just one run in 5 1/3 innings for the victory. The senior-to-be at Shawnee (Ill.) High School gave up five hits while striking out five, walking none and hitting two batters -- not bad for a pitcher who had seen only limited action previously this season.

"I wasn't really nervous. I just wanted to help the team," Taylor said. "My motion is a little bit different than anyone else has."

Catcher Aaron Dohogne said Taylor "did an awesome job. He kept us in it."

Cape's offense did more than its part with a 20-hit barrage that featured two home runs from Patrick Slattery and one from Wulfers.

Slattery, who has nine home runs this season, reached base in his first five plate appearances Thursday -- including two walks and being hit by a pitch -- before finally being retired. Slattery reached base all four times during Cape's first tournament game Tuesday.

"Everybody is hitting the ball well," Slattery said.

Wulfers, who hit 11 home runs for Notre Dame Regional High School this year, has only two for Cape's Legion squad after missing time earlier with an injury. He went 4-for-4 Thursday with a double, and he walked in his other two plate appearances.

"I'm starting to swing the bat a lot better," Wulfers said.

Seth Hudson had four hits while Dohogne and Josh Ford both added three. Chris Conrad had two hits and drove in three runs. Slattery, Wulfers and Ford all had two RBIs.

"We feel good now, but we have to come out ready to play again," Ford said.

After falling behind 6-4 in the third, Cape got a run in the fourth and took the lead for good with a four-run fifth. A six-run seventh broke things wide open.

"Michael Taylor was the key tonight, along with our hitting," Cape manager Tom Reinagel said. "We were just trying to get two innings out of him and he gives us five-plus. He did a great job."

Wayne Essner pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close out the victory, fanning two and allowing one hit. Urhahn gave up six runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings. He fanned five, walked three and hit four batters.

Landon Small homered and had three of Dunklin County's 10 hits.

mmishow@semissourian.com

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