Solid fundamentals key to Central baseball team's 5-1 victory over Sikeston in SEMO Conference tourney opener

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Tigers didn't commit an error in their tourney opener

The Tigers perfectly executed a game plan carved in wood in the first round of the SEMO Conference baseball tournament.

The formula for success in the wood-bat event put a premium on airtight defense, offensive execution and pitching.

Central coach Steve Williams happily checked off his Tigers' to-do list after Friday's first-round game against Sikeston.

Sacrifice bunts, check.

Suicide squeeze, check.

Two-out hits, check.

No fielding errors, check.

Aggressive base running, check.

Solid pitching, check.

The fourth-seeded Tigers also checked off a trip to the tournament semifinals by defeating fifth-seeded Sikeston 5-1.

"The thing with the wood bats, it just brings the game in a little bit," Williams said. "It makes it a little tougher. It makes mistakes bigger and you really have to execute in chances where you have to score or move runners. Fortunately today, we were able to cash in a few opportunities."

Central (10-5) scored two two-out runs in the second inning and added three runs in the sixth when it took advantage of Sikeston's only two errors and used a suicide-squeeze bunt.

The runs were plenty for senior left-hander Ronnie Scott, who transferred to Central from Notre Dame after his sophomore year and improved to 4-2 in his first year at the varsity level.

Scott allowed just five hits -- all singles -- and one earned run in going the distance. He struck out five and walked four.

"I definitely was more aggressive than I usually am," Scott said, citing the wood bats as the main reason.

Scott only retired Sikeston (8-4) in order once in the game -- three flyouts in the seventh -- but was able to hold the Bulldogs scoreless through the first five innings.

"The thing they all do, Ronnie especially, is battle," Williams said about his pitchers. "He had to make a couple big pitches when he needed to, and he was able to do that today."

Sikeston stranded two runners in both the first and fifth innings. The fifth had the makings of a big inning when Scott walked the leadoff batter then threw late to second on a sacrifice bunt. However, Sikeston failed to capitalize. A bunt attempt was popped up for the first out, a line drive was caught by right fielder J.P. Huston and first baseman Andrew Williams fielded a grounder and raced to the bag to end the threat.

Sikeston touched Scott for its only run with a two-out single in the sixth inning that cut the Tigers' lead to 2-1.

Central took the lead in the second with three of its seven hits. Huston and Thomas Crocetti both knocked in runs with two-out singles. Huston's flair to center came after designated hitter Andrew Hileman opened the frame with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Ryan Siebert.

"Every run matters," Huston said. "With wood bats, there's not a lot of scoring. It's all about executing, so that was big."

Central shortstop Trey Gardner, who went 2 for 3, started the sixth-inning rally with a one-out double to right field. Gardner advanced to third on a grounder to short, surviving what looked like a sure out when the throw was dropped by the third baseman for an error.

"I should have held up, but my momentum was already going to third," Gardner said. "Luckily he missed it and I was safe."

Gardner scored on a suicide squeeze by Siebert, who laid down his second sacrifice bunt.

"We usually don't [bunt that much]," Scott said. "We did a good job though getting down bunts."

Siebert scored on a two-out throwing error and Huston, who went 2 for 3, followed with his second RBI single.

The two errors underscored the importance of defense with the wood bats.

The Tigers fielded 15 batted balls without an error and center fielder Christian Cavaness threw out a baserunner at third in the sixth inning.

"We started playing better defensively, but we still have a long way to go," coach Williams said. "We're not making great plays, but we're making plays we should make. If we can do that, that gives us a chance."

The win served multiple duties for the Tigers. It was a conference win since the teams' regular-season game was rained out. It also advanced the Tigers in the tournament and helped their seeding for the upcoming district tournament.

"It was a big game for us," Williams said.

Sikeston0000010--152
Central020003x--570

WP -- Ronnie Scott, 4-2. LP -- Trey Tigert. 2B -- Trey Gardner (C). Multiple hits -- Sikeston: Ross Bohannon 2-2; Central Gardner, J.P. Huston 2-3. Records -- Sikeston 8-4, Central 10-5.

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