By Stephen Buus
The Stockton Tigers scored early and often on Tuesday, plating at least one run in each of their six at-bats and rolling on to an 8-4 victory over the El Dorado Springs Bulldogs in the finals of Class 3 District 12 at the Tigers’ home field.
“That was our game plan; we had to force the issue tonight,” said victorious Coach Darin Henderson after claiming his third straight district title. “We knew they were going to score runs. They can really swing the bats well. We had to force the issue and we really did a great job of that tonight.”
Skyler Fishburn and Connor Brown both went 4-for-4 as part of a 12-hit Tiger attack. Fishburn had two doubles and two runs scored while Brown drove in three runs. Jake Wheeler added a triple and two runs scored while starting pitcher Brice Bird helped his own cause with two RBI.
“Those guys have been doing it all year,” said Henderson of the Stockton offense. “Everybody had a great approach today. They knew what they were looking for and they got it. They squared some baseballs up and scored a lot of runs.”
Stockton jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Bulldogs rallied in the top of the third to tie the game at 3-3. Henderson went out to the mound to settle down his senior hurler, Bird.
“I just told him he needed to work out on the front toe and he needed to get the ball down. He was leaving balls out over the middle and he wasn’t able to control his curveball there for about an inning and a half. Then when he got it figured out, he did well.”
Bird racked up nine strikeouts before giving way to junior reliever Hayden Farwell in the sixth.
For Bulldog coach Jeremy Barger, the loss could be described as an opportunity missed against their Cedar County archrivals. Twice in the middle innings, El Do left the bases loaded.
“I’m proud of them, they fought hard,” said Barger of his team. “Early in the season, we got down a few times early like that and for whatever reason did not fight back the way we are capable of. But the boys fought hard the entire game. We had a few hits here and there, but we can’t make the errors in the first few innings to allow those (Stockton) runs to begin with. It was a tough loss, but we’ll be back.
“We’re losing the ace of our staff, and in my opinion one of the best pitchers in Southwest Missouri in Riley Boyd. He’s got a lot of upside going for him. He’s going to college, graduating at age 17. He’s young, but I’m so proud of him. He definitely should get some postseason awards.”
The Tigers will visit the winner of District 11 in the sectional round on Monday.
El Dorado Springs 003 100 0—4 6 1
Stockton 212 111 x—8 12 0