Bulldogs unproven arms get job done

Monday, May 16, 2005

Notre Dame lost two of the top pitchers in the area last year when Lee Essner and Blake Urhahn graduated.

And the cupboard didn't look so good for this year. Jeremy Brinkmeyer and Blake Essner each had ERAs above six last year, while Kirk Boeller pitched just 6 2/3 innings for the Bulldogs' district runner-up team.

Any questions regarding the Bulldogs' pitching staff have been answered, as Notre Dame carries a team ERA of 2.05 heading into this week's Class 3 District 1 tournament in Sikeston.

Notre Dame's ERA is even more impressive considering the Bulldogs' pitching staff had one of its worst outings of the season Friday in a 14-0 loss to Jackson in their season finale.

"That was the one bad performance we've had from a starter all year long," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said. "To feel you have one bad outing as a pitching staff, I feel real comfortable where we're at."

The Bulldogs, due to a 4-5 start to the season, will come into the district as the No. 3 seed. Host Sikeston, which has won the tournament the past two seasons, has the top seed with Dexter at No. 2.

Notre Dame has defeated Sikeston twice this season, though, and comes into the district tournament having won 11 of 13 games.

"This year we're coming in with a lot of confidence, even though we're the No. 3 seed," Graviett said.

The pitching staff is led by Brinkmeyer, who has been perfect in his senior season. Brinkmeyer is 8-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 50 2/3 innings of work.

"I told him going in we needed a leader," Graviett said. "I thought he stepped up in basketball and did that role."

Essner also has been solid this season, despite being roughed up for eight runs in only one-third of an inning against Jackson. Both Essner and Boeller have pinned losses to No. 1 Sikeston this season.

Boeller has an ERA of just 1.43 in 44 innings.

"I think Kirk's throwing the best baseball he's thrown all year long," Graviett said.

Notre Dame opens today with No. 6 Doniphan at 4:30 p.m. at Sikeston. Other quarterfinal matchups include Sikeston vs. Fredericktown, New Madrid County Central vs. Kennett and Perryville vs. Dexter. The finals are set for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Graviett said Sikeston is the team to beat but added the format of three games in three days leaves little margin for error.

"It's going to be a lot like the conference tournament," Graviett said, referring to the event his team won. "You're talking about three days in a row, single elimination. It's going to be the team that gets hot."

Jackson bids for title

Top-seeded Jackson will try to avoid any letdowns when the Class 4 District 1 tournament begins today at Wilson-Rozier Park in Farmington.

The Indians carry a 17-3 record into district play, including wins over district opponents Farmington, Central and Poplar Bluff.

Jackson lost to Farmington in the district championship game last season.

"We're certainly not heads above anyone else in there, so we'll have to be ready to play," Jackson coach Rex Crosnoe said. "We could be one and done or could be playing for a couple of weeks. It just depends on what our focus is."

Jackson last won a district title in 2002.

Central, the third seed, is looking for its first district title since 2000.

Seniors Tyler Beussink and Jason Meystedt lead the Indians. Beussink is 7-0 on the mound with a 0.83 ERA in 42 innings. Meystedt, also a starting pitcher, is Jackson's top hitter at .426 with 25 RBIs.

"We're set up where we've got some pitchers that have the capability of shutting teams down, and we have the capability of putting up some runs," Crosnoe said. "But potential doesn't help you prove anything. We'll just have to do it on the field."

Central had to settle for the No. 3 seed despite winning 10 of its last 12 games. The Tigers are 14-10 overall.

Central is led by sophomore ace Brad LaBruyere, who has two no-hitters this season, including one against No. 2 Farmington.

Central coach Steve Williams said with the way his team is playing, they feel confident no matter where they're seeded.

"That motivates them," he said. "I don't think it matters. I think us or Jackson or Farmington can win it. I think it's wide open."

CLASS 3 DISTRICT 1

at Sikeston

Teams: No. 1 Sikeston (17-5), No. 2 Dexter (11-10), No. 3 Notre Dame (15-7), No. 4 Kennett (11-12), No. 5 New Madrid County Central (6-9), No. 6 Doniphan, No. 7 Perryville, No. 8 Fredericktown

Schedule: Monday, Sikeston vs. Fredericktown, 12:30 p.m.; NMCC vs. Kennett, 2:30 p.m.; Notre Dame vs. Doniphan, 4:30 p.m.; Dexter vs. Perryville, 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday, semifinals, 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday, championship, 4:30 p.m.

CLASS 4 DISTRICT 1

at Farmington (Wilson-Rozier Park)

Teams: No. 1 Jackson (17-3), No. 2 Farmington (14-7), No. 3 Central (14-10), No. 4 Seckman (8-10), No. 5 Fox (10-11), No. 6 Poplar Bluff (10-13)

Schedule: Monday, Seckman vs. Fox, 4:30 p.m.; Central vs. Poplar Bluff, 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Jackson vs. Seckman/Fox winner, 4:30 p.m.; Farmington vs. Central/Poplar Bluff winner, 7 p.m.; Wednesday, championship, 4:30 p.m.

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