TROY — Rock Bridge’s Wilson Pfeiffer and Simon Beeson had key hits with the bases loaded to lift the Rock Bridge baseball team to a 7-1 win over host Troy Buchanan on Tuesday evening in Class 4 sectional play. The victory advances Rock Bridge to Thursday's quarterfinals.
Right-hander Travis Bittle started for the Bruins. In a departure from Bittle’s typical role of team closer, the sophomore shined, going four-plus innings and keeping the Trojans hitters off balance with his split-finger fastball. The Trojans did not earn their first hit until there were two outs in the fourth inning.
“The splitter has been working real well all season,” Biddle said.
Rock Bridge head coach Justin Towe praised Biddle for adapting to the new role.
“We need him to be pitching, and if we can’t get him the ball (as the closer), we needed to bring him to it,” Towe said. “He’s whatever we need.”
Freshman Ryan Phillips replaced Biddle in the fifth inning. Phillips held off the Trojans with 2 2/3 innings of shutout pitching.
A three-run third inning paced the Bruins. Pfeiffer’s two-RBI single with the bases loaded made the big dent, and an error by Trojans first baseman Andrew Hogan allowed another run to score one batter later.
After Troy Buchanan capitalized on a Rock Bridge defensive miscue in the bottom of the fourth, making the score 4-1, the Bruins loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth inning. Working the count to 3-2, left fielder Simon Beeson hit a fastball into left center field for a double that scored two runs and advanced Jaide Rose to third. Colby Gerau followed Beeson and scored Rose with a sacrifice fly.
“Our pitching has been carrying us. It was time for the hitters to step up and do their job, and they did it tonight,” said Bruin’s assistant coach Ron Widbin.
Rock Bridge chased Troy Buchanan starter Kyle Frantz in the third inning. Several scouts had come to see Frantz throw, but his fastball, clocked in the high 80s, wouldn't stay in the strike zone against left-handed hitters. Rock Bridge drew four walks from the big right-hander, scoring its first run on a wild pitch in the first inning.
“We beat a good pitcher tonight, that kid was 8-1 and you could tell he had good stuff,” Widbin said. “We were playing with house money, I said, let’s go out there and see what happens, and what happened was good.”
In the seventh inning, Rock Bridge catcher Max Byers stepped in to pinch hit wearing a face mask on his batting helmet after being hit in the face by a pitch on May 5. In his only at bat of the game, the Rock Bridge catcher was hit in the head. Byers was visibly angry after the beaning, but went to first base without incident, then was pulled for a pinch runner.
Rock Bridge will host a quarterfinal game on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's Joplin-Nixa sectional. Senior Clay Leible, who had a strong performance in Rock Bridge’s district championship game win over Hickman, will be the starting pitcher for the Bruins.