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Notre Dame nips Jackson to earn baseball victory
Jackson baseball coach Tatum Kitchen was left to ponder what might have been.
The Indians gave defending Class 3 state champion Notre Dame all it could handle in a game that featured numerous impressive plays by both sides.
But the only error of Tuesday's contest perhaps prevented host Jackson from handing the Bulldogs their first loss.
Notre Dame was able to escape brand-new Whitey Herzog Stadium with a hard-fought 5-3 victory and its perfect record intact at 8-0, including a 4-0 SEMO Conference mark.
"It was a quality game, which is what I expected," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said. "Jackson is starting to put the pieces together."
The Bulldogs, the state's top-ranked Class 3 squad, carried a 1-0 lead into the top of the sixth.
With two outs and nobody on, junior right-hander Bobby Clark hit a batter. Then Jackson flinched for the only time as a throwing error on a routine ground ball kept the inning alive.
Notre Dame made Jackson pay. The Bulldogs followed with three of their seven hits on the day to score four unearned runs and build a 5-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs needed every bit of that cushion to hold on as Jackson scored twice in the sixth and once in the seventh.
"It was a tough game. We always expect a tough game with Jackson," Notre Dame senior Trenton St. Cin said. "We showed we're a good team. When a team makes a mistake, we jump on it."
Kitchen, Jackson's first-year coach, had nothing but praise for the way the Indians (5-3, 1-2 SEMO Conference) performed. He also had plenty of praise for Notre Dame.
But Kitchen wished he could have seen how things might have turned out minus the miscue.
"I'm not going to say we were one play away from winning, but the error sure hurt," Kitchen said. "You give a team like Notre Dame extra outs and they'll make you pay. They're just a good, seasoned team.
"But we played well. It was a very good game."
Both starting pitchers were strong.
Clark, who tossed a five-inning no-hitter against New Madrid County Central in his previous outing, held the powerful Bulldogs at bay for much of the contest.
Clark (2-1) allowed just two hits and one run through four innings. He wound up allowing seven hits and just the one earned run in six innings, with seven strikeouts and three walks.
"He threw well. He had to throw well for us to have a chance," Kitchen said. "And I give [senior catcher] Tyler Qualls credit. He knows a lot of the Notre Dame hitters from playing in the summer and I let him call the pitches today."
Said Graviett, whose club entered the day with a batting average of just over .400: "I was very impressed with him [Clark], to hold us down for six innings."
Notre Dame senior right-hander Tanner Hiett gave up five hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings after blanking Jackson for five frames. He struck out four and walked one. He also picked off two baserunners.
"Tanner battled. He did a great job," Graviett said.
Said Hiett, who improved to 3-0: "I was kind of nervous at the beginning, going against Jackson. But I think I settled down and threw strikes. I just kept my focus. I knew my team would pull through with some runs."
Before Notre Dame's big sixth inning, the game's only run was provided by St. Cin. With one out in the fourth inning, he deposited a Clark delivery over the left-field fence.
While Notre Dame has plenty of home runs this year, hitting one out of Herzog Stadium and its major-league dimensions is no small feat. The park measures 330 feet down the lines and 400 feet to dead center, with a 10-foot high chain-link fence all the way around.
"I didn't know [it was going out]," St. Cin said. "You just hit it and run."
Said Graviett: "I think we've got a home run in every game. I laughed and told them before the game that today the streak will be broken. That was a shot, to hit it out in this park. We hit a couple of other balls that probably would have been out on most fields."
Senior Mark Glastetter, the Bulldogs' No. 9 hitter, delivered a two-run single in the sixth inning. Senior Ethan Essner had an RBI double and senior Colton Young added an RBI single.
"We always talk about taking advantage," Graviett said. "If you're going to give us an extra out, we'll push through. We have so many quality hitters up and down the lineup."
Jackson battled back after falling behind 5-0. Qualls, who is being recruited by several Division I programs, belted a two-run double off the fence in the sixth inning to make it 5-2. Qualls was the only player for either squad to have two hits.
Young, Notre Dame's ace right-hander, retired the final batter in the sixth and allowed an RBI double to junior Mason Sander in the seventh before closing things for a save.
Jackson sophomore right-hander Clayton Baker relieved Clark in the seventh and recorded the final three outs.
Notre Dame's perfect record will be tested again Friday when the Bulldogs play at Eureka, the state's top-ranked Class 4 team.
WP -- Tanner Hiett, 3-0. LP -- Bobby Clark, 2-1. S -- Colton Young. HR -- Trenton St. Cin (ND). 2B -- Jake Pewitt (ND), Jeremy Essner (ND), Ethan Essner (ND), Tyler Qualls (J), Zach McDowell (J), Mason Sander (J). Multiple hits -- Jackson: Qualls 2-3. Records -- Notre Dame 8-0, Jackson 5-3.