Cape Girardeau, Jackson to meet in first round at Senior American Legion District 14 tournament

Friday, July 20, 2012
Cape Girardeau shortstop Logan Henson throws to first base for an out Wednesday at Capaha Field. (ADAM VOGLER)

Jackson Post 158 has the best record, Dunklin County Post 303 is the defending champion and Ford & Sons Cape Girardeau Post 63 faces the least pressure.

Throw in a Sikeston Post 114 squad that has struggled but is capable of springing an upset, and it adds up to what should be an action-packed Senior American Legion District 14 tournament.

Jackson is the host for the four-team, double-elimination event today through Sunday at Legion Field.

"I think the top three teams are evenly matched, and you can't look past Sikeston. They have a couple of pitchers who are pretty good," Jackson coach Mark Lewis said. "You never know at tournament time. There are no guarantees.

"I think whoever is going to play the best this weekend is going to win."

Jackson's Ryan O'Rear charges toward a Blytheville runner to catch him in a rundown during Tuesday's game in Jackson. (ADAM VOGLER)

The winner earns a berth in next week's Zone 4 tournament, which Cape already has qualified for since it is hosting the five-team event for the third straight year.

The district runner-up also will qualify for zone play if Cape emerges as district champion.

Today's first-round pairings feature second-seeded Jackson (33-15, 4-2 district) against third-seeded Cape (15-27, 3-3) at 4 p.m. and top-seeded Dunklin County (21-12, 5-1) against fourth-seeded Sikeston (4-22, 0-6) at 7 p.m.

Today's losers meet at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by today's winners at 4 p.m. and the losers bracket final at 7 p.m.

The championship is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, and an if-necessary title contest would follow at 7 p.m.

"I think it's wide open," Cape coach Steve Williams said. "I don't think anybody thinks they don't have a chance to win it. It's not necessarily who has the best record, it's who plays best that weekend."

Cape would rather not back into that event despite not having the normal tournament pressure because of its guaranteed zone berth.

Post 63 also wants to regain the momentum it had earlier in the season when it started 12-6 before stumbling. Cape has won just three of its last 24 games.

"We had the district [title] two years in a row until last year," Williams said. "We'd like to get it back."

Perennial power Dunklin County, which has won 12 of its last 15 games, has captured district championships three of the past five years. Cape claimed the crowns in 2009 and 2010.

"Not a bad regular season," Dunklin County coach Jamie Johnson told the Daily Dunklin Democrat. "All the work is done and now the money is on the line.

"It's still going to come down to which team is going to come out and play hard and well at the right time. Any of the four teams could win it. We'd like for it to be us, but it's baseball. We will see what type of effort we bring to the tournament."

Jackson and Cape played four times during the regular season. Jackson won three of the contests, and the squads split two tight district games. Cape won 4-3 and Jackson prevailed 6-4 in nine innings.

"It's going to be a tough first game," Lewis said.

Cape lost both district games to Dunklin County. Jackson and Dunklin County split their two district contests. Jackson went 3-2 against the A's, including a tournament meeting.

Virtually all of the matchups between the top three seeds were close, and Williams expects no different this weekend.

Lewis said what will make the tournament especially interesting is that all games are scheduled for nine innings after teams played primarily seven-inning affairs during the regular season.

"Nine-inning games are a lot different," he said. "You generally have to use quite a few pitchers."

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