COLUMBIA — Hickman’s baseball team asks a lot of Drew Mitrisin. He pitches and hits third in the lineup. He leads the Kewpies in hits, doubles, RBIs and total bases.
Part of it is because he was a second-team All-State player last year.
But mainly it’s his experience. Having started on the varsity team since his sophomore year, Mitrisin is the only Hickman player who had significant varsity experience coming into this season.
On Wednesday, the Kewpies called on Mitrisin to shut down Smith-Cotton, which came into the game with a 12-5 record and had ace Bryce Johnson on the mound. Mitrisin was decent. He allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits over seven innings, working out of several jams.
But the senior left-hander didn’t get much help. Johnson stifled Hickman’s hitters, allowing just one run and four hits to outduel Mitrisin and help Smith-Cotton to a 3-1 win on Wednesday at Hickman.
“We can’t expect Drew to bail us out all the time,” Hickman second baseman Xavier Lewis said. “We just kind of expected him in tight situations to pull through for us. But we can’t rely on him because he’s the only returning letterman.”
Lewis was involved in one of the game’s biggest plays. In the top of the sixth, Lewis gave Hickman life when he drove in the Kewpies' first run with a single. He then tried to steal second but was thrown out by Tigers’ catcher Jared Hagedorn. Lewis appeared to get under Hagedorn’s high throw, and Hickman coach Bobby Chick argued the call to no avail.
Hickman’s next two batters walked and singled, but first baseman Blake Jones popped up to second to kill the threat.
“In the sixth inning, it’s way too late to try to win a game,” Mitrisin said.
Mitrisin said Hickman (5-7) roughed up Johnson two years ago, but Smith-Cotton’s ace mixed in off-speed pitches with his fastball on Wednesday, keeping the Kewpies off balance. Jones, Hickman’s only other senior starter on Wednesday, said the Kewpies haven’t faced a pitcher who had control of his off-speed pitches like Johnson did.
After winning their first four games, the Kewpies have lost seven of their past eight.
“Our biggest problem, not only this game but every game we’ve had this year, is we just don’t hit when we need to hit,” Chick said. “We have runners on. We just don’t seem to get the hit when we need to. We’re not disciplined at the plate.”
Chick said he wants his hitters to be more aggressive instead of falling behind in the count. But he won’t use the excuse that his team is inexperienced, noting Smith-Cotton, with three sophomore starters, is also a young team.
“How we lose the game sometimes is kind of heartbreaking to them,” Chick said. “It just doesn’t seem like we can put seven innings together.”
Hickman will need Mitrisin to get out of its funk, but he’ll need some help.
“He’s (Mitrisin) been in these games,” Chick said. “But he can’t do it alone. He’s got to have eight other guys out there behind him to get the job done, and right now we’re just not doing it.”