Late homer sinks Mudcats in title game|[08/06/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 6, 2007

The looks of dejection on the faces of Mississippi Mudcats players said it all.

Those looks came after watching Kodie Tidwell’s three-run homer sail over the right-field wall at Bluff Field in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the West Monroe Bulldogs a five-run lead.

The Mudcats mustered no hits in their final chances in the top of the sixth and lost 6-1 in the 12-year-olds’ championship game of the Governor’s Cup.

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&#8220All you had to do was look at those kids,” Mudcats coach Marshall Upton said. &#8220That home run took the air out of us; it really did. We knew we had the top of the lineup coming up, but when he hit that three-run homer, that was a lot to overcome.”

Before Tidwell’s three-run shot, the Mudcats had kept the score close. The Mudcats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Reed Evans’ RBI double, but they stranded two runners.

The Bulldogs responded with a run in the bottom of the first and another in the second for a 2-1 lead, but didn’t score again until Clay LaBeff’s RBI single in the fifth inning gave them a 3-1 lead. Two batters after LaBeff, Tidwell’s blast all but buried the Mudcats’ hopes of winning the tournament.

The batter’s box wasn’t the only place where Tidwell was effective. He also pitched the final three innings for the Bulldogs, allowing no runs on no hits. He struck out two and allowed only one baserunner on a walk.

Tidwell said hitting the three-run homer gave him more confidence on the mound in the final inning.

&#8220I just wanted to get enough of a lead so I could have a little bit of room to work with,” said Tidwell, who finished 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored while baffling Mudcat batters with his pitching.

The Bulldogs finished the tournament with a 6-0 record, and the Vicksburg-based Mudcats went 4-1.

Bulldogs coach Mickey LaBeff said pitching was the key to his team’s championship run. In six games, the Bulldogs allowed only four runs.

And while pitching was still a trademark for the Bulldogs on Sunday, Tidwell’s homer gave them some breathing room.

&#8220It was a godsend,” LaBeff said. &#8220You don’t want to go into that last inning with a small cushion. It was a big lift for our ball team.”

The Mudcats advanced to the title game with a 3-1 win over the West Monroe Titans earlier Sunday.