Poplar Bluff baseball brings an end to Jackson's district title run
HILLSBORO, Mo. -- This time it was Poplar Bluff's turn to celebrate.
At the bottom of a maroon dogpile Monday following the Class 5 District 1 championship game was Tanner Tibbs. The senior tossed a three-hit shutout and pushed across the first run of the game with a bases-loaded walk as the Mules beat Jackson 8-0.
"Last year was a heartbreaker," said Tibbs of a semifinal upset that ended a record-breaking season. "We knew we didn't want to go through that again so we kept pushing ourselves."
Poplar Bluff (20-5) will host the District 2 champions -- Rockwood Summit (25-4) or Oakville (19-7) -- on Tuesday, May 23.
"Things went well for us," Mules coach Steven Edwards said. "I couldn't be any prouder of this bunch right now."
Jackson had a record-breaking 23-8 season end shy of a third straight district title.
"When you go into a championship game this is what you expect," Jackson coach Bryan Austin said. "You have a bad inning but that doesn't justify an entire season of a positive season."
The Mules gave Tibbs a five-run cushion in the second inning after helping him wiggle out of a jam.
Cole Welker led off the bottom of the first with a single and was on third base with one out when Braedon Dobbs hit a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field. Poplar Bluff left fielder Michael Anagnostopoulos made a diving catch running in, forcing Welker to stay a third.
Tibbs then got a flyout to right field.
"That's huge," Tibbs said. "I gave him a hug after that, told him I love him."
"It's big to score first in a game like this so I just had to save a run," Anagnostopoulos said. "That's all there is to it."
Anagnostopoulos, who missed fall soccer with a knee injury, batted second in the next half inning. He followed a double off the right-field wall by Turner Fritts with a single through the left side.
With runners at the corners, Matt Lambert hit the ball back at starting pitcher Jarrett Newell, who knocked it down but threw late to first base, loading the bases.
"Lambert hustled all the way down the line and got on," Edwards said. "It's just pulling from the same end of the rope and guys believe in it. It all came together."
Tibbs, hitting eighth, drew a five-pitch walk to push across the first run.
Austin McIntosh, a .371 hitter in the regular season, found the left-field gap for a two-run double and a 3-0 Mules lead.
"You're trying to figure out a way to get out of that inning with only three runs," Austin said. "Get out on (3-0), it feels like a positive."
Jared Moses drew a full-count walk to load the bases again with no outs before Ronin Rice's sacrifice fly to center added a run. Tyson Cox made it 5-0 with an RBI single through the left side, ending Newell's day on the mound.
Drew Brown needed just three pitches to escape the jam, getting a grounder to third baseman Dobbs for a double play.
Tibbs and his defense made it stick.
The senior lefty struck out four, walked three and hit a batter. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second following a pair of errors with a pair of strikeouts.
"He did a great job of spotting his pitches," Austin said of Tibbs. "He located three pitches for strikes. I felt like we didn't chase very often, felt really good about our discipline at the plate."
Jackson was shut out for just the third time in a season in which the Indians set offensive team records and a high mark for wins. They came in averaging 8.1 runs per game with a record total of 255.
"The zero doesn't do us justice," Austin said. "They hit the baseball extremely well today. It was just right at people."
The Mules snared two liners up the middle for outs and another at third base.
In the fifth, Welker got his second hit and Newell followed with a walk with one out. Tibbs got a grounder under a leaping Welker that Cox fielded at short to start a double play.
The Mules added three runs with a two-out rally in the seventh.
Fritts started it with a walk before an RBI double by Anagnostopoulos to the left-field gap. Lambert's RBI single and a hit by Tibbs was followed by an RBI hit by McIntosh that put the Mules up 8-0 before Jackson threw out the runner trying to go from first to third.
"It was a tough situation," Austin said. "We knew it was going to take a lot."
Two years ago, Jackson celebrated with a dogpile after ending Poplar Bluff's then-record season. The Indians made it two in a row last year after the Mules were stunned in a semifinal by Cape Central.
This spring, Poplar Bluff started 1-4 and were knocked from the state rankings. But the Mules won 18 of 19 to end the regular season, including a 5-3 win over the Indians on April 24.
The Mules will make their third playoff appearance and second in four years.
"It's become a really solid rivalry," Austin said. "They're doing fantastic things. I think both programs know that on any day each other can beat the other and we wish them the best of luck in the playoffs."
WP -- Tanner Tibbs. LP -- Jarrett Newell. 2B -- Turner Fritts (PB). Michael Anagnostopoulos (PB). Austin McIntosh (PB). Multiple hits -- Jackson: Cole Welker 2-3. Poplar Bluff: Matt Lambert 3-4. Tyson Cox 2-4. Anagnostopoulos 2-4. McIntosh 2-4