SPRINGFIELD — The cheering and clapping from the Rock Bridge dugout at the beginning of the game turned into silence after Bruins senior Nick Little grounded out to end the game. Rock Bridge lost 9-1 to Fort Zumwalt South on Friday afternoon in the Class 4 semifinals, ending the Bruins' deepest run in the state baseball tournament.
Bruins coach Justin Towe said he thought the Bruins played well, but that the Bulldogs never gave them a chance to get anything going.
"I knew we were going to have to play perfect to beat them," Towe said. "Baseball is a game of inches, and we just didn't hit the holes."
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead against Bruins starting pitcher Travis Bittle. The Bulldogs' Fred Ford and Dan Seddon drove in two runs each. The Bulldogs scored one run in the second, three runs in the fifth and one in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
Freshman Ryan Phillips relieved Bittle in the second inning after Bittle hit Bullogs left fielder Michael Macke. Phillips walked his first batter in the third then Phillips came out of the game in the fifth with his head down in disappointment because he felt he could no longer pitch. Phillips said he popped his right shoulder in pregame warmups, and it kept him from throwing strikes.
"I felt like I couldn't keep my pitches under control, because my shoulder was really hurting," Phillips said. "The loss hurts right now, but we will look back on this season two years from now and say it was quite a ride."
The Bruins got good offensive performances from Wilson Pfeiffer and Little, who had two hits each, but Bulldogs starting pitcher A.J Walkenhorst kept the rest of the lineup off balance. He came into the game with a 6-2 record and a 1.51 ERA. Walkenhorst pitched a complete game allowing the Bruins' only run on a third-inning balk that scored Little from third.
"He was the real deal and was as good as advertised," Towe said.
The Bruins lose six seniors. Jaide Rose, Jordan Adrian, Colby Gerau, Clay Leible, Ian Fuemmler and Little have graduated.
"They led us to our first district title in five years and our first final four appearance," Towe said. "This season was on their watch, and they did a good job."
The Bruins can still end their season with a win when they play the De Soto Dragons in a third place game at 10 a.m. Saturday.