The Smith-Cotton baseball team faces a daunting task this week as district play begins at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia.
More than two hours southwest of the Tigers’ venue, the Sacred Heart Gremlins will begin defense of their Class 1 state championship at Lakeland High School near Deepwater.
•Smith-Cotton drew the No. 5 seed in the Class 4, District 10, tournament, which features two state-ranked teams and another that received votes.
Top-seeded Jefferson City is the eighth-ranked team, according to the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association. No. 2 seed Rock Bridge is ninth in the state, and No. 3 Helias received votes in the latest poll.
The Tigers will open against defending district champion Hickman, the No. 4 seed, at 4:30 p.m. today. The two teams met April 30 in Columbia with Hickman winning 4-0.
The Kewpies carry an 11-11 record into today’s game. The Tigers are 5-12 but lost many of those games when most of their varsity roster was suspended for six games for vandalizing a baseball field at Centennial Park. Those players are back with the team.
The winner will take on Jefferson City in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Rock Bridge received a firstround bye as did Jefferson City. The Bruins will meet the winner of the Helias-Camdenton game in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Helias and Camdenton will meet at 7 p.m. today.
The championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.
•Sacred Heart is the top seed in the District 14 tournament but could face a stiff challenge from No. 2 Leeton, which is ranked 10th in the state.
The Gremlins are unranked after racking up twice as many losses as they did last season — four — but still have the corps of last year’s team.
Don’t take their unranked status or those four losses too seriously. Three of those losses came against larger schools, including defending Class 2 state champion Blair Oaks. Ninth-ranked Braymer was the only Class 1 team to beat the Gremlins this season.
Sacred Heart returns its top two pitchers, Austin Mullins and Jaric Reid. Mullins won the state championship game last season and is undefeated with an ERA under one. When these two guys take the mound, the Gremlins are tough to beat.
Mullins, Reid, J.G. Kelley, Jason Lamb and Jacob Melick give the Gremlins plenty of punch at the plate. All five players are batting in the high .300s or better.
The Gremlins will meet the Lakeland-Smithton winner at 4 p.m. Tuesday. No. 4 Lakeland and No. 5 Smithton are scheduled to meet in the first round at 4 p.m. today.
Leeton is the No. 2 seed, Green Ridge No. 3 and Otterville No. 6.
The championship game is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday.
•The semifinal matchups have already been set at the Class 2, District 14, tournament at Tipton.
Top-seeded St. Paul Lutheran, the third-ranked team in the state, fell short of a district title last season but is having another solid campaign. The Saints will meet No. 4 Crest Ridge in the semifinals at 4 p.m. today. No. 2 Tipton will meet No. 3 Cole Camp in the other semifinal at 6:30 p.m. today.
The championship game is set for 5 p.m. Thursday.
•Santa Fe is favored to win the Class 1, District 15, tournament at Concordia.
Pilot Grove is the No. 2 seed, Concordia No. 3, Northwest No. 4, La Monte No. 5, Bunceton No. 6, Sweet Springs No. 7 and Slater No. 8.
The first-round games are set for today. The semifinals will be at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The championship game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday.