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South Callaway baseball dominates Callaway County Jamboree

by Robby Campbell | March 16, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
South Callaway's team warms up before taking on New Bloomfield in the Callaway County Jamboree Wednesday at South Callaway High School in Mokane. (Fulton Sun/Robby Campbell)

MOKANE -- On its home field, South Callaway dominated the Callaway County Baseball Jamboree, outscoring its opponents 13-0 while getting out of high-pressure situations to keep shutouts intact.

The Bulldogs beat Callaway Cup rival North Callaway 5-0, Fulton 3-0 and New Bloomfield 5-0 Wednesday at South Callaway High School.

South Callaway executed all facets of the game to get those results. In three three-inning games of jamboree action, the Bulldogs struck out 11, allowed seven hits, recorded seven hits (15 walks) and turned two double plays.

Each game saw one or more of those statistics leading to a South Callaway victory.

In the Bulldogs' first game versus North Callaway, strikeouts were vital in the win as they made 7-0f-9 outs by sending Thunderbirds hitters packing. And on the offensive side, South Callaway scored four runs in the third to seal the win.

South Callaway needed that offensive surge in the third, as it only had a single and a walk through the first two innings.

Showing how dangerous they can be no matter the circumstance, the Bulldogs' JT Thomas went from first to home during Tucker Jones's at-bat after getting a free pass.

It seemed that Thomas putting South Callaway in front helped its starting pitcher, Jacob Martin, as he struck out the side in the bottom of the second inning.

That 1-2-3 frame by the Bulldogs' ace led to a high-scoring third. North Callaway walked the first four Bulldogs hitters in the inning, and then South Callaway hit a two-RBI single and an RBI sacrifice fly in the next two at-bats.

Before the Thunderbirds made the final out of the third on a flyout to left field, the Bulldogs plated their last run on a six-pitch walk with the bases loaded. North Callaway's six walks in the third proved decisive, as Ryan Lepper struck out two Thunderbirds while allowing no runs on a single and a walk in the final frame.

"Our pitchers kind of picked up where they left off in their bullpens the other day," South Callaway coach Heath Lepper said. "We were really pleased with all of our guys, the way they were preparing for everybody for the most part for this time of year. All their pitches located very well. Whether it's strikeouts or whether it's just keeping the ball down and getting ground balls when we need it."

Following that dominant performance, the Bulldogs played their closest game against their most formidable opponent -- Fulton.

With Hornets ace Dusty Hagens -- a commit for NCAA Division II UMSL -- it would always be challenging for South Callaway to score.

That was the case in the first inning, as Hagens sent South Callaway down 1-2-3. But the Bulldogs tagged Hagens with a run in the second, taking advantage of a leadoff walk by hitting a two-out RBI double which went roughly 340 feet to straightaway center.

"Even with (Hagens), he's gonna get some of our guys out; there's no doubt about it," Lepper said. "When you get a pitcher that that's, he's got that good of stuff; you just have to accept the fact that you're not gonna go out there and get a hit every time you go up. But as long as you have that battle mentality, and it came from the bottom part of our lineup."

Fulton took Hagens out of the game after two innings, and it was still anyone's game with South Callaway up 1-0.

The Bulldogs added another two runs in the bottom of the third, which wouldn't have happened if it was a standard -- though it's not standard in itself -- three-inning game.

Besides the fact it was a one-run game before that inning, Fulton stranding five runners with two outs showed how the outcome could've been different.

Unlike the first two games, South Callaway got its offense going early against New Bloomfield, scoring three runs in the first. However, New Bloomfield gifted the Bulldogs two runs -- South Callaway scored twice on wild pitches.

Before those errant throws, the Bulldogs scored their first run on a groundout to the pitcher.

Another contrasting part of South Callaway's game against the Wildcats was its pitching, though the Bulldogs' defense saved it.

In the first, South Callaway walked two New Bloomfield hitters with one out before turning a 3-4-5 double play to end the inning.

Then, in the second, the Wildcats loaded the bases with one out after notching a single and two walks. But South Callaway got out of it by retiring the next two New Bloomfield hitters.

South Callaway used its plate discipline in the third to create run-scoring plays; the Wildcats walked the first two Bulldogs in the inning. And South Callaway followed that up with two runs in the next two at-bats, scoring one apiece on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout.

Heading into the final frame, the Bulldogs led 5-0.

New Bloomfield tried to pressure South Callaway, drawing a leadoff walk before hitting a single to center.

Those two plays were thwarted as the Bulldogs turned a 5-3 double play before striking out the next Wildcat to seal the jamboree sweep.

South Callaway's lineup for the sweep-sealing game had six underclassmen, showing both its young and experienced players can help the team win games.

"We really like what we've seen today out of our underclassmen all the way through upperclassmen," Lepper said. "The work ethic is there from our freshmen to our seniors."

After a long, chilly afternoon/evening with nine innings of jamboree action, South Callaway's hard-working team ran across the outfield and back.

South Callaway will want to keep it up when it gets the regular season underway. The Bulldogs' Saturday doubleheader versus North Callaway and Kirksville will likely be postponed due to the forecast, so they'll probably open their season against Centralia at 5 p.m. Monday in Mokane.

"If we can get them here at our place, we like are our odds of getting that back up a little home field advantage, but they're gonna come in, and they're gonna scrap," Lepper said. "They're kind of like we are; they're nice and gritty. So anytime you get those games at the beginning of the year, you gotta play."

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