Cape zoned in on taking title

Friday, July 23, 2010
Sikeston's Steven Beydler slides safely into second base in front of Post 63's Blake Smith on Sunday during the District Legion Tournament at Notre Dame Regional High School. (Laura Simon)

The top three finishers from last year are back, including the defending state champion, along with another perennial American Legion powerhouse.

That makes up a loaded field for the American Legion Zone 4 tournament beginning today in Cape Girardeau.

The winner of the five-team, double-elimination event at Capaha Field advances to next week's American Legion state tournament in Sedalia, Mo.

"It sure is a tough tournament. All these teams are really good," Cape Girardeau Ford & Sons Post 63 coach Todd Pennington said. "I'm looking forward to that competition. I've been looking forward to it all year. It's going to be really exciting, with all that talent at Capaha Field."

Action begins today with three games. American Veterans (16-14) plays Dunklin County (37-8) at 2 p.m., host Cape (37-11) faces Eureka (33-7) at 5 p.m. and the opening-game winner takes on Festus (21-3) at 8 p.m.

There will be three more games Saturday, including the winners bracket final at 5 p.m.

Sunday's schedule features the losers bracket final at 2 p.m. and the championship at 5 p.m. An if-necessary title contest would be played at 7 p.m. Monday.

"Everybody is fired up," Cape's Dustin Crowden said. "We're ready to go."

Cape, assured all season of a zone berth because of its host status, didn't back into the event.

Post 63 captured its second straight District 14 Tournament title, fighting its way out of the losers bracket to knock off Dunklin County twice in the finals.

"Coming out of the losers bracket to win the district, that gives us a lot of confidence," Crowden said. "It would have been kind of bad if we would have gotten a berth just because we're hosting."

Said Cape's Blake Smith: "I think we have a great team. I think we have a real good chance to win it."

It won't be easy.

Defending zone champion Festus has won three straight District 13 titles and last year also captured state and regional crowns to earn an American Legion World Series berth.

Eureka from suburban St. Louis, coming off its third consecutive District 10 title, lost to Festus in the 2009 zone finals.

Dunklin County captured District 14 crowns in 2007 and 2008 before falling in the finals to Cape the past two years. The Dodgers are the lone non-district winner in the field.

Only District 11-12 representative American Veterans from metro St. Louis appears to be a decided underdog.

"It'll be tough competition. It should be. It's a zone tournament," Smith said.

Cape, which last year claimed its first district crown since 2003, went on to place third in the zone after losing to Festus and Eureka.

Post 63 was admittedly a decided zone underdog in 2009. But the same cannot be said for this year as the squad seeks its first state berth since 2003.

"I think anybody can beat anybody in this tournament, but I think we're as good as anybody," Pennington said.

Added Crowden: "It'll be a tough tournament to win, but we feel we're at least as good as anybody there."


* Admission to the tournament is $3 per day. A tournament pass is available for $7.

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