SIKESTON, MO. -- In the land of "throwed" rolls and giants, the Marion High School baseball team took on the Sikeston Bulldogs and lost a heartbreaker, 5-4, in nine innings, on the road Monday evening.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Marion, but after Sunday's latest round of rainfall, the contest was moved to Sikeston's gorgeous VFW Memorial Ballpark, which is just down the road from the famous Lambert's Cafe.
The Bulldogs (6-5) had the game's biggest blows with Payton Howard's two-run homer off the scoreboard in the first inning and Nate Self's majestic moonshot to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Marion (9-3) did enough damage in between to win the game, but ultimately the tying shot led to Sikeston loading the bases and scoring on a hit by pitch in the ninth for the victory.
Self, a slick-fielding third baseman and leadoff hitter, has committed to the University of Tennessee-Martin. Self's blast came against Marion's own Division I signee, SIU-bound senior Mitchell Jackson, who stepped temporarily into a closer's role.
"That was a huge play," said Marion coach Marty Manfredo. "We brought Mitchell in because they had the top of the order and we thought he had the best chance to get out of it. He just hung a slider and that kid hammered it."
Self finished the day 4-for-4, plus a walk in the first ahead of Howard's homer, and scored three of Sikeston's four runs. He also singled to lead off the ninth, but was picked off by Jake Welch while trying to sneak to third base.
Welch was forced into pitching duties in the eighth after Marion used Lucas Johnson, Christian Burgrabe, D.J. Tucker and Jackson all on the mound effectively.
Self and Howard both had hits in the ninth, but an intentional walk and infield error after the pickoff had the bases loaded for lefty Jeffery Thornbrough. Welch was winning the battle but plunked Thornbrough in the backside to force in the winning run.
"The only thing I'm really disappointed about is defensively we were porous," Manfredo said. "You can't make six errors and beat anybody good. But I thought our pitching was phenomenal. We had a lot of guys throw and they all threw well. They battled and they played hard."
The errors were mostly of the tough-luck variety. Either the giant Bulldogs were hitting lasers or high bloops. One of the errors charged to Tucker at third base came after he made a spectacular diving stop but made a wide throw. And at least two others were on adventurous fly balls.
"The problem was they were so dang big that we had to play really deep," Manfredo said. "And then when they blooped one, we were too deep."
Marion tied the game at 3-3 in the third inning after Drake Gravatt, Josh Griffin, Welch and Cavan Cameron all strung hits together and Ryan Trokey collected an RBI by hustling out a grounder.
Griffin used a perfectly-placed sacrifice fly in the fourth to give Marion a 4-3 lead, but the Wildcats didn't get a hit in what turned out to be five following frames.
Griffin finished with two hits and two RBIs.
"Offensively, I don't know," Manfredo said. "We did OK, but not as good as we wanted. The most important thing is we needed to come down here and get some live at-bats. We haven't been able to play lately and we have four more games this week so we just have to put this one behind us."