Tigers reach semifinals of SEMO Conference tournament
Saturday, May 2, 2009 ~ Updated 12:11 AM
Central junior right-hander Josh Meyer leaned on his defense to help him escape trouble.
And when Kelly threatened to put together a big inning, Meyer slammed the door with a strikeout.
Meyer scattered three hits over seven innings as the Tigers downed the Hawks 6-3 in the opening round of the SEMO Conference baseball tournament Friday.
"I didn't have a dominant pitch today," Meyer said. "It was a little bit of everything today."
Kelly pushed across a pair in the second inning, but Meyer ended the inning with a strikeout. He ended the sixth, when the Hawks scored their other run, with another strikeout. He picked off a runner in the fourth and benefited from a double play in the fifth.
"We have a good defense," Meyer said. "We have a solid infield. We don't make many errors."
Kelly coach Nate Wills said that Meyer's ability to get ahead in the count made the difference. It resulted in his batters chasing some tough pitches.
"We were fouling a lot of pitches off early and then we get behind and he was able to throw his pitches and that kind of hurt us," Wills said. "When we aren't able to hit our pitches and we've got to go fishing out of the zone a little bit, we're hitting pitcher's pitches on the ground, which is what we did today."
Kelly (6-7) was trying for its second win over Central in nine days. The Hawks beat the Tigers 8-3 on April 22, which provided extra motivation for the Central players Friday.
"They beat us pretty handily at their place," Central sophomore Andrew Williams said. "So we were coming back saying they weren't going to do that again to us. So we came out and played our best. Josh Meyer pitching did an amazing job and we got the win."
The Tigers' attempt at revenge got off to a rocky start Friday when the Hawks scored two in the second inning, with Chase Smith and Ross Lasater earning RBIs for the Hawks.
But Central (11-8) answered with a pair of runs with two outs in the second.
"I think they were huge because they've got a good ballclub," Central coach Steve Williams said of his team's second-inning runs. "They're seeded sixth, but that don't mean nothing. They beat our brains in the other day down there. For them to get two like that really put the pressure back on us to answer."
Central took the lead for good in the third inning. Kelly pitcher Ryan Essner got Blake Smith to fly out to center then struck out Ryan Grigaitis. But the third strike got away and Grigaitis was able to reach first safely. Essner got Erik Allen to pop out to shortstop, but that's when Central went to work with the bats. Jamie Pickel doubled to put two runners in scoring position for Andrew Williams.
"First pitch, I was looking for a fastball thrown for a strike, hit it in play and hope things went well," Williams said. "I saw the outfielder dive. I saw it hit his glove and went, 'Yeah.' I was like, 'You better get down.'"
Williams smacked a single to left field that barely evaded the diving Hawks outfielder to score Grigaitis and Pickel.
Central added a run in the fourth on a single by Pickel, and Meyer was able to limit Kelly's chances the rest of the way. The Hawks pushed across a run in the sixth as Essner singled and Dustin Crowden was hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt, Essner scored on Josh DeBrock's grounder to third, but Meyer ended the inning with a strikeout.
"He's really come on mentally and physically to where he's just mentally tough," coach Williams said of Meyer. "He showed that today. He tried to get ahead most of the day, had good velocity and threw enough breaking balls for strikes that he was victorious."
WP -- Josh Meyer. LP -- Ryan Essner. 2B -- Shawn Prince (C), Jamie Pickel (C). Multiple hits -- Central: Hideaki Tanaka 2-3, Pickel 2-2. Records -- Kelly 6-7, Kelly 11-8.