Notre Dame baseball team rolls past Jackson to claim SEMO Conference tournament title

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Notre Dame players celebrate as teammate Cody Heisserer rounds third after his home run Monday during the second inning of the SEMO Conference tournament title game at Capaha Field. (Laura Simon)

Winning the SEMO Conference baseball tournament isn't Notre Dame's biggest annual goal, but it ranks near the top.

The top-seeded Bulldogs returned to the winner's circle Monday night by avenging one of their two losses this season with an 11-3 victory over seventh-seeded Jackson.

A big crowd at Capaha Field saw the Bulldogs improve to 17-2 as they captured their third SEMO Conference tournament title and second in the last three years.

"We were hungry," Notre Dame senior Jonathan Lynch said. "We were wanting to get this back."

Notre Dame, the state's top-ranked Class 3 squad, is tied with Sikeston for the most SEMO Conference tournament championships since the event began in 2001.

Notre Dame baserunner Griffin Siebert scores behind Jackson catcher Clay Macke during the second inning of the SEMO Conference tournament Monday at Capaha Field. (Laura Simon)

"Every year we talk about it," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said about the tournament title, which eluded the Bulldogs last season when they lost at Kennett in the rain-delayed final. "To play in this atmosphere at Capaha, after it got rained out last year and we had to go down to Kennett ... it's still a big, prestigious thing in the area."

Jackson (10-9), which defeated Notre Dame 5-4 on April 10, was looking to continue its upset run that saw the Indians take down second-seeded Kennett and third-seeded Poplar Bluff.

Too many mistakes and missed opportunities did in Jackson on Monday. Three errors contributed to five unearned runs, and the Indians stranded 10 on the bases compared to just two for Notre Dame.

"I'm proud of the tournament we had," Jackson coach Tatum Kitchen said. "We've come a long way from just about a week ago. But we played bad tonight. Notre Dame is awfully good. ... You can't give a team like that so many chances.

"We had plenty of chances. Notre Dame took advantage of their chances better than we did. Their pitchers did a good job working out of jams."

Jackson baserunner Clay Baker slides safely into third base behind Notre Dame's Jesse Schott during the second inning Monday.

Jackson led 1-0 after scoring a run in the top of the first inning, but Notre Dame took control by scoring seven runs in the opening two frames.

Notre Dame senior Cody Heisserer had the loudest blows for a Notre Dame offense that made the most of its seven hits.

"You have to take advantage when you get opportunities against a good team," Graviett said.

Heisserer's RBI double and an RBI single by senior Jesse Schott highlighted a two-run bottom of the first inning that put Notre Dame up 2-1.

Then came the five-run second inning that put Jackson in a deep hole.

Junior Steven Eddy's only two walks of the game, which came to the bottom two hitters in Notre Dame's lineup with one out, set up the Bulldogs for their uprising.

Junior Justin Landewee's RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Lynch made it 4-1.

An error with two outs allowed a run to score and kept the inning going.

Heisserer then crushed an Eddy offering over the left-field wall near the 330-foot sign at spacious Capaha.

Heisserer's third home run of the season, a two-run shot, opened a 7-1 advantage.

"I actually was surprised because the wind wasn't blowing at all," Heisserer said. "He hung a fastball. He kind of had me fooled. I was out in front of it, but I just muscled it out."

That was more than enough of a cushion for Lynch, a left-hander who came back to start after notching the victory with two innings of relief during Saturday's 10-9 semifinal win over Dexter.

Lynch allowed two runs, one earned, and five hits over five innings to earn his second victory in the tournament. He struck out five and walked four.

"We were looking to get two or three innings out of him," Graviett said. "For him to give us five innings was huge. He's always going to battle."

Lynch escaped two big jams that could have gotten Jackson back in the game.

The Indians had runners on second and third with one out in the second inning but failed to score. They loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth but came up empty.

"Overall I felt pretty good," Lynch said. "I just wanted to make them put the ball in play and let my defense make the plays. It was a great team win."

Sophomore Ross James finished the victory by pitching the final two innings. He allowed an unearned run and one hit while striking out one and walking two.

"I thought he responded well," Graviett said.

Notre Dame blew open things with a four-run sixth inning that featured two errors and two unearned runs.

Sophomore Josh Haggerty highlighted the frame with an RBI single. He was able to circle the bases when his line drive to center field was misplayed and nearly rolled to the wall for a three-base error.

Eddy settled down after his rough start. He retired Notre Dame in order from the third through fifth innings, and at one point he set down 10 straight batters.

Eddy ended up allowing 10 runs, six earned, and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked two.

"He was missing his spots early, but once he settled in he did throw well," Kitchen said.

Eddy drove in two runs for Jackson with a ground out and a sacrifice fly. The Indians had six hits.

Jackson1010010--363
Notre Dame250004x--1173

WP -- Jonathan Lynch. LP -- Steven Eddy. HR -- Cody Heisserer (ND). 2B -- Steven Porzelt (J), Heisserer (ND), Stephen Brennan (ND). Multiple hits -- Notre Dame: Heisserer 2-4. Records -- Jackson 10-9, Notre Dame 17-2.

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