ELSBERRY -- A five-run second inning helped send the South Callaway Bulldogs to state for the first time since 2017, when they won their last state title.
"Second inning was huge," South Callaway coach Heath Lepper said. "Scored all five runs with two outs. Shows how scrappy the boys are."
South Callaway edged out a 6-5 victory against the Elsberry Indians in the Class 3 Quarterfinal 2 game Thursday at American Legion Field. Even though it was played in Elsberry, the Bulldogs were the home team.
South Callaway may have been outhit 9-7, but the Bulldogs made up for it by playing a clean fielding game while Elsberry recorded two errors.
An error plated South Callaway's first run in the bottom of the second -- the highest-scoring frame by either time. Ethan Edwards scored on the error as the Bulldogs' Dane Daugherty reached first on his ground ball to short.
Keeping it up, South Callaway's Jacob Martin cleared the bases when he lined a three-RBI double to right field. Then, Ryan Lepper concluded the back-to-back-to-back scoring plays by smacking an RBI single to center, giving the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead after two innings.
Three innings later, Elsberry got on the board with a bang as Gavin Marshall blasted a two-run home run to center.
JT Thomas made it 6-2 South Callaway in the sixth, sending Tucker Jones home on his double to center.
With only an out left to get a four-run comeback brewing, the Indians' Kaden Kinsler drilled a three-run homer to center. However, that would be the contest's final runs, as Elsberry's Christopher Dowell flew out to centerfielder Daugherty for the last out.
Martin earned the complete-game win for South Callaway. The Bulldog allowed five runs (all earned) on nine hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch while striking out five in seven innings.
Gavin Woodson took the complete-game loss for Elsberry. The junior gave up six runs (one earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out nine in six innings.
"Very proud of our boys," Heath Lepper said. "They battled all game today. Jacob Martin did it on the mound and at the plate. He showed how much of a competitor he is tonight. Struck out five, picked off two runners and had three RBI. JT's RBI in the sixth was a huge insurance run that proved to be the difference maker. A complete team effort in this year's postseason. It seems like somebody new every game has a big game. We love seeing these boys reap the benefits of all their hard work."
With South Callaway advancing to state, it joins Class 4 Fulton to become Callaway County's first pair of team sports teams in a respective sport to make it to state in the same season since 2016. That season the Bulldogs' and Hornets' baseball teams were also the teams that reached state, but both will want to do better than their fourth-place finishes.
Class 3 No. 5 South Callaway (23-7) will face tied for No. 1 Portageville (34-2) in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Ozark. Charleston is the one common opponent between the teams this season, and South Callaway won 8-0 against them, while Portageville won 13-3.