Jackson stays in winners bracket

Saturday, July 25, 2009
Jackson catcher Bret Steffens tags out New Madrid's Kyle Marshall to end the first inning during their Babe Ruth state tournament game Friday at Jackson City Park. (Kit Doyle)

The host team is a win away from the championship game of the Babe Ruth state tournament.

New Madrid shortstop Kyle Marshall squatted down at his position and stared intently at the ground while pitcher D.J. Bidwell did the same with his hands on his knees behind the mound.

Neither could stand to watch as Jackson's Bret Steffens trotted home with the first run of the teams' matchup in the Missouri Babe Ruth Championship tournament in the top of the second inning Friday night at Jackson City Park.

It was the first run in Jackson's 2-0 win and left them just a win away from the championship game.

Steffens led off the inning with a base hit to right center and advanced to second when teammate Alex Buessink was hit by a pitch. During the next at-bat, Steffens ventured a little too far off second, drawing a throw from New Madrid's catcher. The ball sailed over the head of Marshall, who was covering second, and he threw his glove into the air in either an effort to stop the ball or a display of disappointment.

Jackson Sr. Babe Ruth starter Garrett Fritsche delivers against New Madrid Friday, July 24, 2009, at Jackson City Park. (Kit Doyle)

Steffens headed back to second base when the center fielder raced in to pick up the errant throw, but Steffens was awarded two bases thanks to a rule prohibiting Marshall's glove toss.

"I saw him toss his glove," Steffens said. "I didn't know that was against the rules or anything. ... I've never seen it called before"

That run was all Jackson pitcher Garrett Fritsche would need.

"It's absolutely huge," Jackson coach Paul Sander said of his team staying in the winners bracket. "Teams run out of pitching as it goes on in the tournament here, and for us to be able to stay in the winners bracket conserves our pitching."

Fritsche did his part to conserve the rest of the staff Friday night. He was credited with the win and a complete-game shutout despite allowing runners to reach in six of the seven innings and stranding a total of 10 runners in the game.

Jackson runner Alex Beussink advances to third base from first as New Madrid shortstop Kyle Marshall hangs his head after interfering with the baserunner.

"I didn't have my location, and that really affects you when you can't place it where you want it," Fritsche said, but he pointed out that Steffens' work behind the plate made things easier for him.

"Bret called a great game," he said. "When he calls a great game and you just throw what he wants, it's easier than calling your own game."

He then paused to looked over at Steffens, who was waiting by the dugout.

"I didn't shake you off once today, did I?" Fritsche asked.

Steffens confirmed that he had not and informed Fritsche that he better not start to do so in the future.

"We've been playing for our whole lives, so he knows everything," Fritsche said. "I just let him call it."

Fritsche got help from his defense throughout the game. Center fielder Chris Roth threw out a runner at the plate to end the first inning and third baseman Ryan Bass made a charging stop and off-balance throw to first to end the second inning and prevent a run from scoring.

In the fourth inning, Fritsche raced over to cover first when second baseman Spencer Sander caught up with a ball in the hole between first and second base to save yet another run and end the inning.

"I relied on my defense several times and we made plays -- big plays -- to end several innings, and it helps out a lot when you know that's behind you," Fritsche said.

Jackson did not add its second run until the top of the seventh inning, making those plays all that much more important.

"If we don't make just one of those plays, we probably lose," Sander said.

Next up for Jackson is the Charleston Fighting Squirrels, who won their game over Booneville 11-7 on Friday.

Jackson will face Charleston at 5 p.m. today.

"We've got to come ready to play tomorrow," Steffens said. "We play Charleston. They're two-, three-time state champs, so you've got to beat the best to be the best.

"They're the best team here until somebody beats them, so hopefully we can get them tomorrow."

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