Heading into the American Legion zone tournament, a three-day double elimination tournament which starts today in Sikeston, one thing is clear: The team with the most pitching will likely come out on top.
With little time in between games, a team's No. 3 pitcher can be as important as its ace, which is why the performances of pitchers like Josh Snell, Austin Morrison and A.J. Seiler will be key in determining Jackson's success this weekend.
"There's going to be two on Thursday, four games Friday, and Saturday it's over with," Jackson coach Mark Lewis said of the zone. "So you can't save anyone."
The RE/MAX Achievers have had consistent starts down the line this season, and in the district tournament when it mattered most, both Snell and Seiler had strong performances. Snell pitched 6 2/3 innings to give Jackson's its only win over Sikeston in five meetings, and Seiler allowed six runs in nine innings of work against Sikeston in the first final-round game.
"We've got to prepare to go every day," Seiler said. "You never know when you're going to go in."
Jackson's starter for tonight's 8:30 p.m. contest with Sikeston will be a game-time decision. Whether it is Jackson's ace Jason Meystedt or Snell or another Jackson starter, the team is confident it can pick up its second win over Sikeston.
"For the most part our pitchers have been consistent all year," Lewis said. "When we play good defense behind them we have a good chance to win."
Jackson's bats have had a revival of late. The Achievers scored 27 runs in four district tournament games, as Meystedt led the charge with seven RBIs and three home runs. Meystedt reached safely in 10 of his 20 at-bats in the district tournament, including a .353 batting average.
"He's given us a real shot in the arm toward the end of the season," Lewis said of Meystedt.
Meystedt, who bats third in Jackson's lineup, had been struggling to an extent before going on vacation late in the season. His bat has been on fire since his return, which has helped to give players around him -- Zach Brazer, Brandon Gendron and Tony Longman -- more pitches to hit.
"All around he's picked it up, and the kids around him have responded," Lewis said.
Jackson, along with Sikeston, will likely be considered underdogs to a strong group of St. Louis area teams this weekend. Brentwood and Rock Memorial each have posted more than 30 wins. Those two teams will meet at 5:30 p.m. today in the tournament opener. Anheuser-Busch, which has won 13 of 15 games, will play Friday against the winner of the Jackson/Sikeston game.
"There are no cupcakes in the bunch," Lewis said. "You're going to have to play well to win it."
After posting another strong regular season, Jackson's players feel this could be their year.
"I don't think any team can match our ability," Meystedt said.
Coach: Mark Lewis, assistant coach Bob Friese
Top hitters: Brandon Gendron, Jason Meystedt, Zach Brazer
Top pitchers: Meystedt, Josh Snell, A.J. Seiler, Austin Morrison, Gendron
Notes: Jackson enjoyed three strong starts in the district tournament, with Meystedt, Snell and Seiler each going at least six innings. Jackson's offense also muscled out four home runs, including back-to-back home runs from Meystedt and Gendron against Sikeston.
Coach: Charlie Dye
Top hitters: Lance Rhodes, Matt Smith, Tyler Stahl, Drew Lawrence, Joey Bickings
Top pitchers: Rhodes, Jordan Kimball, Josh Miller
Notes: Won three straight to win district tournament after dropping winners bracket final to Jackson. Rhodes and Smith carried the offense in Sikeston's two district championship game wins, combining for 10 hits and two home runs.
Coach: Dave Kost
Top hitters: Andrew Emory, Scott Van Slyke, Dan Walsh
Top pitchers: Anthony Kobler, Dan Sexton, Walsh
Notes: Brentwood lost its opening game in the District 10 tournament before reeling off five straight wins, including two over Manchester to win the title. Brentwood features ex-St. Louis Cardinal star Andy Van Slyke's son, who is the team's second best hitter.
Rock Memorial (36-6)
Coach: Ed Sabourin
Top hitters: Tyler Arnold, Blane Boss, Jason Burroughs, Zach Weiss
Top pitchers: Ryan Forchee, Dan Potje, Weiss, Glenn Roeder
Notes: Rock Memorial features one of the most explosive offenses in the zone, with four players hitting well above .400. Rock Memorial has out-scored its opponents this season 327-119, which includes wins over both Anheuser-Busch and Brentwood.
Coach: Mike Clifton
Top hitters: Kevin Walsh, Ronnie Martin, Richie Estopare
Top pitchers: Martin, Eric Kuntz, Walsh, Tom Economon
Notes: Anheuser-Busch has won seven straight heading into zone pay, including 13 of its last 15 games. Anheuser-Busch posesses a pair of wins over Sikeston in a doubleheader sweep at Sikeston earlier this season, and is 1-1 against Rock Memorial.
TOURNEY SCHEDULEThursday, July 29
Game 1: Brentwood vs. Rock Memorial, 5:30 p.m.
Game 2: Sikeston vs. Jackson, 8:30 p.m.Friday, July 30
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 4: Anheuser-Busch vs. Game 2 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 5:30 p.m.
Game 6: Game 1 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m.Saturday, July 31
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 8 (championship game): Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 7 p.m.Sunday, Aug. 1
Game 9 (if necessary): Game 8 teams, 1 p.m.