No. 4 Jackson catches a break for title shot

Sunday, May 5, 2002

A quirky bounce in baseball is a lot like beauty -- it's nature determined by the eye of the beholder.

For the fourth-seeded Jackson Indians, a "good bounce" Saturday helped them pick up a 5-2 victory over top-seeded Notre Dame at Capaha Field and reach the championship game of the SEMO Conference Tournament.

The same "bad bounce" helped drop Notre Dame, which already owned two wins over Jackson, into the third-place game.

"Sometimes the ball just bounces right," said Jackson senior second baseman Matt Gordon, the beneficiary of a wild carom off first baseman Trevor Thompson in the third inning that stranded the bases loaded with Bulldogs. "You definitely know it's your day when stuff like that happens."

Added Jackson senior catcher Brad Berry, "Sometimes I guess it's better to be lucky than good."

The Indians were good and lucky.

They turned a double play and played steady defense behind winning pitcher Austin McDowell, who limited Notre Dame to six hits. Notre Dame had banged out 19 hits in their previous meeting, a 14-8 Bulldog victory. Notre Dame also owned a 13-12 victory over Jackson.

The win puts Jackson (12-5) into Monday's 8 p.m. championship game against third-seed Sikeston (15-2), which blanked second-seed Dexter (11-4) behind the no-hit pitching of senior right-hander Chris Cota.

Sikeston is riding a 10-game winning streak while Jackson has won nine of its last 10.

"I don't think anybody thought we'd make it this far," said Berry, who had the game-winning hit, a two-run double in the fourth. "We know we're good enough to play in the championship game. Hopefully we're good enough to win it."

Notre Dame (13-4) scored an unearned run in the third inning for a 1-0 lead and threatened for more when McDowell hit Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Tim Wencewicz and Kyle Diveley to bring Matt Wulfers to the plate with the bases loaded. Wulfers sent a hard grounder down to first that bounded high off Thompson toward Gordon, who gloved the carom and sprinted to first to beat Wulfers to the bag for the final out.

"That's the breaks of baseball," Notre Dame coach Graviett said. "We maybe get one or two runs off that, who knows, and we go up 3-0 and it might be a different ballgame. But he's hustling all they way, so sometimes it's tough to say it's a break when a kid's hustling that hard."

"You just play hard and good things will happen," Gordon said. "Some days it's your day and sometimes it's not, but hustle should cover a lot of that up."

Jackson coach Sam Sides lauded both the mind and hustle of his speedy second baseman that helped create the lucky bounce.

"Matt's always into the game," Sides said. "He's a hustling dude. That was a bid heads up play. I thought we had a couple big-time defensive plays. We kept them out of the momentum."

The momentum definitely belonged to Jackson, which parlayed it into three runs in the top of the fourth. The big blow was a two-run double to deep left field off the bat of Berry, who advanced to third on the throw home and scored on a wild pitch. Berry also had a grand slam in Friday's first-round victory over New Madrid.

"My swing's feeling good and everything is just falling into place," Berry said.

Jackson added RBI singles by Bryan Austin and Josh Parham in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively, for a 5-1 lead. Notre Dame scored its final run in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Wencewicz and Diveley.

"I thought it was one of our better games as far as everybody into it," Sides said. "They're a good team. We don't beat them very often."

Lee Essner suffered the loss for Notre Dame. McDowell struck out two and didn't walk a batter in going the distance.

"It's tough to beat a good team three times," Graviett said. "We got two over them this year and couldn't get the third one. The kid had us baffled at the plate all day long. We're just not hitting the baseball very well right now."

Austin, Thompson and Gordon all had two hits for Jackson, which had eight overall. Wencewicz and Jeff Brosey each had two for Notre Dame.

Sikeston 7, Dexter 0

Sikeston used the unhittable pitching of Cota, a senior right-hander, to extend its winning streak.

Cota (1-0) struck out four Bearcats and walked four in his first start since the second game of the season. Cota started for Sikeston in last year's Class 3A state championship game, but broke the index finger on his throwing hand trying to bunt in his first start of the season.

"It was nice to see him come back and throw as well as he did, but I wasn't expecting that well," Sikeston coach Chris Crosby said.

With Sikeston leading 1-0 in the fourth, Lance Rhodes tripled with the bases-loaded to break open the game.

Sikeston avenged an early season loss to Central on Friday night, and is eager to pay back Jackson for a 10-9 loss earlier this season.

"We really didn't think they should of beat us the first time," Cota said. "But they're a good ballclub. They can hit up and down the lineup. It should be a good game."

Central 7, Scott City 2

Seth Hudson and Aaron Dohogne each had two hits as Central bounced back from a 10-7, first-round loss to Sikeston with a consolation victory

After Scott City scored twice in the second, Central (6-13) retaliated with three runs in the bottom of the inning to move ahead for good.

Mark Wittenborn (2-3) picked up the win for Central. Stephen Posey took the loss for Scott City (5-8).

Central 9, Chaffee 1

Central (7-13), using a six-run fourth inning, moved into Monday's 3:30 p.m. consolation final against Poplar Bluff.

Hudson led the Tigers' 12-hit attack by going 4-for-4. Chris Conrad and Mark Dunaway both had two hits for Central. James Reischmann had a pair of hits for Chaffee (11-8).

Jake Welch (2-1) picked up the win while Chase Eskew suffered the loss.

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