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South Callaway tops Dixon to advance to Class 3 quarterfinals

by Kyle McAreavy | May 24, 2023 at 12:12 a.m.
South Callaway pitcher Ryan Lepper throws the ball to the plate during Tuesday’s Class 3 sectional game against Dixon at South Callaway High School in Mokane. (Kyle McAreavy/News Tribune)

MOKANE -- Ryan Lepper had everything working Tuesday as he pitched South Callaway into the state quarterfinals.

Lepper threw a complete game, allowing one run on three hits, two walks and a hit batter, to lead the Bulldogs to a Class 3 sectional win against the Dixon Bulldogs at South Callaway High School. Lepper struck out five batters in the effort.

“He got ahead of batters more frequently than he did last time. His secondary pitches were locating a lot better, he wasn’t getting to 2-2 or 3-2 every batter,” South Callaway coach Heath Lepper said. “He got ahead and let his defense work. Made pitches down in the zone and got some ground balls. He spotted up well today.”

With the win, fifth-ranked South Callaway (22-7) moves on to the Class 3 quarterfinals and will play Thursday at Elsberry (18-10), which defeated South Shelby 8-2 in its sectional matchup.

“We just need to stay focused on what we do in practice and not let that complacency set in,” Heath Lepper said. “We can’t be happy just to get to the next game.”

Dixon, which was receiving votes in the final Class 3 rankings, ends its season with a record of 20-5.

 Gallery: Class 3 State Sectional Baseball -- South Callaway vs. Dixon

Ryan Lepper’s lone blemish came in the top of the second inning, when Drew Young yanked the first pitch he saw down the line in right field, keeping it just fair as the line drive got over the wall for a solo home run.

After that, Lepper was dealing. He struck out the next batter to end the inning, allowed a hit in the third, then worked perfect innings in the fourth and fifth.

He hit Case Sinden to start the sixth, but Sinden was erased from the basepaths when he was caught stealing. Lepper then walked Drake Young before ending the inning with a strikeout.

Lepper then got a groundout, with the help of a sliding backhanded stop from third baseman Tucker Jones, a pop out to himself just behind the mound and a flyout to center to end the game.

Drew Young’s home run put the visiting Bulldogs up 1-0 early, then South Callaway’s bats got to work in the third.

Dane Daugherty got the inning going with a hustle double on a grounder down the third base line that got into left field, then Jacob Martin reached base on an error to put runners on first and third.

Owen Rees tied the game with a single through the left side of the infield to score Daugherty.

The bats stayed hot in the fourth with some effective small ball.

Jones singled through the right side, then Braden Allen sacrifice bunted him to second before Chase Mealy singled on a hard grounder down the first base line and into right.

Mealy was replaced on the basepaths by pinch runner Jake Boese, who was sacrifice bunted to second by JT Thomas before coming around to score on Daugherty’s second hit.

“It was nice to see the resolve after they got kind of punched in the mouth there giving up the solo shot,” Heath Lepper said. “They stayed the course and battled at the plate and stayed in the game. That’s all you can ask.”

But the home Bulldogs were not done. In the sixth, Jones led off with his second single, this one going up the middle, then Allen went with an outside fastball and sent it high over the right-center field fence for a two-run home run.

Thomas followed with a single, then scored when Jacob Martin doubled down the left-field line past Dixon’s sliding left fielder, allowing the ball to roll to the wall.

“As a coach, you always want to make sure your guys don’t get complacent with a one-run or two-run lead,” Heath Lepper said. “We focused on that all year long one-through-nine in the lineup. Tonight, I think we got it done one through nine. Dane down in the nine hole had two big hits and made a couple of nice plays out in the outfield.

“Probably one of our most balanced games offensively, defensively and pitching. We talk about peaking at the right time and they’re putting it all together.”

Martin doubled, singled and reached on an error out of the leadoff spot for South Callaway, while Rees had an RBI single and a stolen base. Jones singled twice and scored two runs, while Daugherty doubled and singled with one run scored and one RBI. Allen and Mealy each had one hit, Allen’s his two-RBI homer and Mealy an RBI single.

Drake Young pitched all seven innings for Dixon, allowing six runs (five earned) on 11 hits, while striking out two.


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