The Thayer Bobcats would have been hard-pressed to have opened play in the Class 2 District 3 Tournament at Royals Field on the campus of Twin Rivers High School in Broseley May 14 on any more of a positive note than what they did.
The sixth-seeded Cats got a big lead-off double from Jacob Eckman that bounced off the fence in left field to start their opening-round tilt with the third-seeded Puxico Indians.
However, Thayer didn't end the game with as much punch as it opened it, and Puxico ended the Bobcats' season with a 4-1 loss.
The Indians broke open what had been a pitcher's duel between Thayer hurler Eric Williams and Puxico starter John Smith with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth.
As a matter of fact, Smith may have been more important to the Indians in the batter's box than he was on the hill.
With Puxico clinging to a tight 2-1 lead in the home half of the fifth, Smith ripped a hot shot down the third-base line that plated two runners to give the Indians a couple of insurance runs that proved to be big.
It seemed as though Thayer might gain control from the game's outset as Eckman looked at one pitch from Smith before he creamed the next offering all the way to the fence in left for a two-bagger that got Thayer going in the top of the first.
But the Indians got a huge twin-killing as Andrew Brown lined out to second and Eckman was caught off the bag and tagged out for the first two outs of the game.
A popout let Puxico escape the first stanza unscathed.
Williams kept Puxico off balance early, mixing his pitches and hitting his spots to the tune of three Ks in the bottom of the first. For the game, Williams fanned six while giving up five hits and plunking one batter.
Puxico found the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning, starting off with a base hit from Justin Bunch.
Jordan Fox racked up an RBI-single to short for the Indians' first run, and then Smith, much as he would do in the fifth, helped his own cause with a hit to left that drove in Fox to give Puxico a 2-0 lead after two.
Thayer notched its only run in the top of the fourth, with Brown leading off the frame by golfing a shot that hit off the third base bag and landed in left field.
After a popout, Garrett Smith reached safely with a base hit to give the Cats two on with one out. Brown and Smith had advanced to third and second on a passed ball, giving Thayer a chance to tie things up.
While they didn't get that done, the Bobcats did get one run on the board as a fielder's choice from Scott Hargus brought Brown in to score from third, leaving Puxico on top 2-1 after four.
Williams sat down the Indians 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fourth, and Thayer had another opportunity to catch Puxico in the visitor's half of the fifth.
Ryan Tate reached first on an error with one out, and then a sacrifice bunt by Ben Martin sent Tate to second. However, Smith kept Tate at second by getting a fielder's choice to end the inning unhurt.
Then Smith made sure the Indians stayed on top with a big two-out hit in the bottom of the fifth.
After Williams got a strikeout and flyout for the first two outs of the fifth, Fox was hit by a pitch and took first base. Cody Copeland followed with a bloop-hit to short right to set up Smith.
And he responded with a hot shot down the third base line that brought Fox and Copeland in to score, giving Puxico a 4-1 advantage.
Thayer logged just one hit, a liner from Hargus, in the last two innings, as Smith and the Indians managed to keep the Cats in check for a three-run victory.