COLUMBIA — The game, the season and their careers had been over for long enough that the only people who remained outside Hickman High School’s baseball field were a few die-hard fans and parents. But the senior members of the Kewpies and their coach Dave Wilson couldn’t seem to make themselves leave their centerfield huddle.
Wilson addressed the group, then hugged each member of the first and last class he will serve as head coach at Hickman. Slowly, a few players started to make the long walk back to the infield, their jerseys unbuttoned or left behind in the dugout — no longer needed. But they stopped after a few steps and turned back, this time hugging teammate after teammate, further delaying the beginning of life without high school baseball.
For the second time this season Tim Melville, a premier MLB pitching prospect who once again brought out scouts and their radar guns, and the Wentzville-Holt Indians defeated Hickman, this time by a score of 9-3 Tuesday in the state sectional round.
“The thing I’m most proud of, as I told the boys, (is) we never quit,” said Wilson, who is leaving the school to take a position at Staley High School. “It was our goal to get (Melville) out of the ballgame, and our kids battled in at-bats all day long and showed a lot of heart.”
Senior Brandt Frye, who had two hits and a walk against the Indians, said the team had a better approach to facing Melville this time,
“Last game we were a little intimidated,” Frye admitted. “This game we really came after him, swung the bats. He didn’t have as many strikeouts. We weren’t as intimidated, we came out and battled with him.”
The Kewpies manufactured scoring threats in several innings but stranded 12 runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded three times.
“In a game against a team that’s as good as they are and a pitcher that’s as good as he is, you kind of have to play the perfect game,” said Wilson. “We had a couple mistakes in the game, there’s a lot of pressure on you to play the perfect game. If we could have got a couple balls to come through for us I think it would’ve really given us a lot of confidence.”
Hickman managed to get one run off Melville before he exited the game in the sixth inning and scored two more on Thad McVeigh’s seventh inning home run.
“We knew we had nothing to lose,” said Taylor Steuber, who homered off Melville in the teams’ first meeting and had two hits Tuesday. “We were out there and we didn’t want to give up without a fight because that’s not the Hickman way.”
Steuber, though, was more interested in talking about his coach than the game.
“Talk to us about coach Wilson,” he requested before outlining why the team admires him so much.
“He loves his players so much, he’d do anything for them. He’s just always there for us whether it’s in baseball or in life. He barks at us sometimes, but we know that he loves us deep down and we love him, too.”