Dunklin County struggled for much of the American Legion baseball season, particularly against District 14's better teams.
But Post 303 turned it on when things counted the most.
Dunklin County completed an undefeated run through the District 14 tournament with Friday night's 20-3 mauling of top-seeded Scott County.
"It's been kind of an up-and-down year for us," Dunklin County coach Jamie Johnson said. "But I felt all summer this is what we were capable of."
Dunklin County entered the five-team district meet at Capaha Field seeded third after going 3-5 during regular-season district play.
But Post 303 beat second-seeded Cape Girardeau 12-4, nipped Scott County 10-8 and then demolished Scott County in Friday's game that was stopped after the top of the seventh inning by the 10-run mercy rule.
Dunklin County had been 0-4 in district play against the tournament's top two seeds during the regular season.
"We just came out at the end of the season playing our best ball," said Jeremy Patton, Dunklin County's star shortstop who will play baseball at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
Patton will get no argument from Scott County coach Denver Stuckey after Friday's blowout that featured 20 hits by Dunklin County, which scored in every inning.
And a good part of the offensive explosion came against Post 369's top two pitchers in Chase Seyer and Steven Dooley.
"They were just an unstoppable force tonight," Stuckey said. "We threw everything we had at them. They were just going to score tonight."
Stuckey acknowledged that the tournament swung in Dunklin County's favor during Wednesday's winners bracket final.
Post 303 scored three eighth-inning runs and rallied past Scott County 10-8 to send the defending tourney champions into the losers bracket.
Scott County (28-11) battled its way to the finals by beating Cape 9-6 Thursday. Post 369 would have needed to beat Dunklin County (25-17) Friday and also again today to capture the title.
"It was a tough loss the other night," Stuckey said. "It's tough when you get in the losers bracket.
"I know we had the team capable of doing it, but you just have to give Dunklin County credit. They just weren't going to be stopped tonight."
Things started off bad for Scott County on Friday and got progressively worse.
After Post 369 was retired in the top of the first inning, Dunklin County leadoff batter Tailor Laden drilled a home run over the left-field fence off of Seyer.
Dunklin County plated two more runs in the frame to go ahead 3-0.
Patton's two-run double in the second was part of a three-run inning as Post 303 went up 6-0.
Another run in the third made it 7-0, then Kenny Abernathy's disputed two-run homer to left in the fourth -- Stuckey argued that the ball was foul -- opened up a 9-0 advantage.
"We just couldn't slow them down," Stuckey said.
Scott County offered a glimmer of hope with a three-run fifth.
But Dunklin County answered right back with four in its half of the inning and the rout was on for good.
A seven-run sixth-inning explosion by Dunklin County put an exclamation point on the district championship.
"We came out and did what we had to do," Abernathy said. "We got things done."
Said Johnson: "We just played lights out in this tournament. We were outstanding. And we beat a very good team. Scott County is a great ballclub."
Abernathy led Dunklin County with four hits and six RBIs. Dustin Hunter also had four hits, to go along with four RBIs.
Sam Bader, the No. 9 batter, added three hits. Patton doubled twice and had three RBIs.
In addition to the two homers, Dunklin County had five doubles.
"Everybody hit the ball up and down the lineup," Patton said.
Sloan Richardson pitched all seven innings for the victory, allowing five hits. He struck out three and worked around eight walks.
Seyer took the loss, giving up five hits and six runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Dooley allowed seven hits and seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.
Scott County's other two pitchers, Andy Stephens and Adam Urhahn, also found the going rough against Dunklin County's hot bats.
Stephens was tagged for four hits and five runs in 1 1/3 innings. Urhahn retired the final two batters in the sixth, while allowing four hits and two runs.
"It didn't matter who we put out there," Stuckey said.
Trenton Moses had two of Scott County's five hits.
While Dunklin County advances to next week's five-team zone tournament in Jackson, Scott County ends an impressive season with 17 wins in its final 20 games.
Unfortunately for Post 369, two of those defeats came at the hands of Dunklin County in the past three days.
"But like I told the boys, nobody will ever be able to take away our record or the season they had," Stuckey said. "Dunklin County was just the better team tonight."