To just about nobody's surprise, the Plaza Tire Capahas and Tradewater (Ky.) Pirates won lopsided first-round games Friday as the National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional got under way at Capaha Field.
The host Capahas and defending champion Pirates were considered the class of the field entering the four-team tournament -- and they did little to dispute that.
Plaza Tire, which has finished second in the tournament the past two years after previously ruling the double-elimination event, rolled past the Pine Bluff (Ark.) Braves 14-1.
In the opening contest, Tradewater hammered the Cape Girardeau Riverdogs 11-0 in seven innings as the game ended early by way of the 10-run rule.
The Capahas (17-5) and Pirates (20-10) will square off at 4:30 p.m. today in the winner's bracket final. The Riverdogs and Braves meet at 1 p.m. in an elimination contest. There will also be an elimination game at 8 p.m.
Sunday's championship round begins at 1 p.m. The winner earns an automatic berth into the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kan.
"It's nice to start off the tournament this way," Capahas manager Jess Bolen said. "We had a good all around game."
About the only thing the Capahas failed to do against the Braves was end things early. Despite leading 9-0 after four innings, they had to play the regulation nine innings. The visiting team on the scoreboard, Plaza Tire led 10-1 before pushing across four runs in the top of the ninth.
Starting pitcher Jason Chavez got the win with five nearly perfect innings. The right-hander allowed just one baserunner, that on an error, and struck out 10.
"I hadn't pitched in a week and a half and my arm felt really good," said Chavez, who didn't seem very upset that he was removed despite having a no-hitter going. "I figured if I have to come back and pitch in the tournament, it's best not to wear myself out."
Jon Nourie, who missed virtually the entire season at Southeast Missouri State University this year with an elbow injury, made his first appearance of the summer and struck out three in one inning.
"It felt good to be back out there," Nourie said.
Eric Horstman, normally an outfielder, pitched the final three innings, allowing all three Pine Bluff hits and the Braves' lone run while striking out four.
Josh Eftink led the Capahas' 13-hit attack with two home runs and a double, good for six runs batted in.
"It was a good night for me," said a smiling Eftink.
Robby Moore also had three hits and scored four runs while Horstman, Wade Walter and Eric Hoffman -- making his first appearance of the summer -- all added two hits. Horstman scored three times and Walter had two RBIs.
Looking ahead to today's matchup, the Capahas have already beaten the Pirates twice this season -- 3-2 in Cape Girardeau and 10-1 in Dawson Springs, Ky. -- but Tradewater blanked Plaza Tire 7-0 in last year's regional final.
"They're the champs until somebody beats them," Bolen said. "They've got a good team and it should be a very good game."
Said Pirates head coach Steve Fowler, "The Capahas are the model type team in the country for this level of baseball as far as I'm concerned. Any time you can beat them you've accomplished something. They've got a great program and we're looking forward to playing them again."
Pirates 11, Riverdogs 0
The Pirates rolled behind the four-hit shutout of left-hander West Harris, who struck out six and walked five.
Tradewater had 11 hits. Kevin Caldwell and Adam Schneider both went 3-for-3 while James Akin tripled, doubled and drove in two runs. Schneider and Nick Utley both added two RBIs.
Tim Davis took the loss, allowing seven hits and six runs (five earned) in 3 1/3 innings. Tyler Nelson gave up four hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings. They combined for nine walks and four hit batters.
"They have a good team, but we didn't hit well and we didn't pitch well," Riverdogs co-coach Robin Minner said.