Jackson, Cape meet in district opener

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The regular season has settled nothing for the four teams that comprise American Legion District 14.

Three of the teams finished .500 or better in district play while the fourth -- Jackson -- has the worst district record but the best overall record. Jackson even owns four wins in five meetings with Cape Girardeau's Ford & Sons, the defending district champion.

"It is very balanced," Sikeston manager Charlie Dye said. "Anybody can win it; it matters who gets hot at the right time."

The settling begins today with the first-round games today at Jackson's Legion Field. Dunklin County plays Sikeston at 5 p.m., and Cape meets Jackson at 8 p.m.

Cape Ford & Sons (17-24) enters as the only team with a sub-.500 record, but it also tied for the best mark in district play at 4-2 with Dunklin County. Since the two teams split the two head-to-head games, Cape received the top seed based on run differential in those games. Ford & Sons defeated Dunklin County 18-9, while Dunklin County won 7-5.

Cape Post 63 won the district last year and finished third at the state tournament, and coach Michael Minner said his team is entering the tournament with the favorite's mindset.

"We feel that we are the best team," Minner said. "They're going to have to beat us, because we are not going to beat ourselves."

Ford & Sons has had some momentum as of late, beating Jackson in the final meeting between the two teams and going 5-5 in its last 10 games.

The Jackson RE/MAX Achievers (22-12) have been reeling a bit at the end of the regular season, dating back to a game against Cape that was wiped out by rain. The Achievers led the contest 8-0 in the fourth inning. But they lost the makeup and are 4-6 since the rainout.

Jackson, which finished 1-5 in district games, is not worried about the recent struggles.

"We don't worry about it, we just deal with it," RE/MAX coach Mark Lewis said. "Plus, I'm not really qualified to talk about the psychological part of what is going wrong, I just know we are not playing well.

"But I feel pretty good going into the tournament. I feel like it's a wide open tournament. I don't feel like there's one dominant team. Any of the four could very well win it, and if you played it four or five different times, you might have a different winner each time."

Second seed Dunklin County (25-16) has won five of the last seven district titles.

No. 3 seed Sikeston (16-9, 3-3) doesn't need to win the district to advance to the next round -- the five-team zone tournament. Sikeston hosts the zone and therefore has an automatic bid; however Sikeston is approaching the district with the same urgency as the other three teams.

"We're going in to try to win it," Dye said. "I would love to win a district championship."

If Sikeston does win the tournament, the runner-up will also advance to the zone, from which one team will reach the state tournament in Sedalia.

Ford & Sons would like to make that trip again and settle some unfinished business.

"We've got the pitching to go on a run," Minner said, "and I feel we have a team that is capable."

There will be two first-round games today, with Dunklin County playing Sikeston at 5 p.m. and Cape playing Jackson at 8 p.m.

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