Sikeston ends ND's season

Thursday, May 19, 2005

SIKESTON, Mo. -- All year long the Sikeston Bulldogs had to hear about what they weren't and not what they had become.

Even after impressive victories, skeptics were everywhere.

But the Bulldogs quieted those critics on Wednesday afternoon as they captured the Class 3 District 1 championship with a 7-3 win over Notre Dame at VFW Stadium.

It's the Bulldogs' fourth district title in the last five years and it marked the team's 20th victory, the sixth straight year they've reached the 20-win plateau.

"At the beginning of the year everybody was doubting us, saying how we wouldn't get past districts," said Sikeston senior Richard Landers. "And look at where we are now. Twenty wins, a district title and now we're going to sectionals."

Even though the Bulldogs were seeded first in the district, many thought third-seeded Notre Dame was the team to beat as they had won 13 of 15 games heading into Wednesday, including two wins against Sikeston.

"We split with them this year, but they won the one that matters," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said.

Cullen DeHart dealt the big blow early as he sent a Kirk Boeller pitch the opposite way to left field for a three-run home run in the bottom of the first, giving Sikeston an early 3-0 lead.

"Big time players make big time plays and it started out with a three-run homer from Cullen," Graviett said. "As tight as our other games have been this year, you put three runs up in the first inning and that's a big backbreaker for us. With one pitch they get that kind of lead."

DeHart was also the winning pitcher, firing a six-hitter. All three Notre Dame runs were unearned.

Notre Dame got its first run in the top of the third when DeHart walked Dane Balsmann with the bases loaded to bring in Jacob Essner, who had reached on an error.

But in the bottom of the fourth, Sikeston responded with another big fly, this time a two-run homer off the bat of Landers to left field to push the Bulldog lead to 5-1.

Sikeston went ahead 6-1 in the fifth, before Notre Dame scored its final two runs in the sixth as Jacob Wengert and Jeremy Brinkmeyer both trotted home on a two-out throwing error, cutting the Sikeston lead to 6-3. But Sikeston got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.

"Every time we tried to chip away they had an answer," said Graviett. "We had opportunities to score almost every inning and we couldn't come through with the hit."

Notre Dame's Boeller, who one week ago pitched a two-hit shutout against the Bulldogs, wasn't as sharp Wednesday.

He threw 4 2/3 innings, allowing six runs off eight hits. He walked six and hit two batters in getting the loss.

"He struggled a little bit with control," Graviett said. "They were sitting on some of his offspeed stuff. It probably hurt us with them seeing him last week. They made adjustments today and hit the ball off him."

Blake Essner threw 1 1/3 innings of relief, allowing one unearned run off one hit with one walk.

"I felt like when we played up there the last time we were a little flat," said Self. "There wasn't anything on the line and I think both teams knew that. Today I knew it would be a different story. They threw the same kid and we had Cullen, who they hadn't seen. I felt like his stuff would be good enough and it was."

Sikeston out-hit Notre Dame 9-to-6. Shane Menz led Notre Dame by going 3-for-4.

Box score

Notre Dame001 002 0--361
Sikeston300 211 x--792

WP -- Cullen DeHart. LP -- Kirk Boeller. HR -- Sikeston:

DeHart (8), Richard Landers (1).

Multiple hits -- Sikeston: J.R. Bizzell 2-3, Landers

2-2, Eric Chappell 2-4. Notre Dame: Shane Menz 3-4.

Records -- Sikeston (20-5). Notre Dame (17-8).

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