COLUMBIA — Down 3-2 in the seventh inning with runners on first and second base, Hickman first baseman Conner Shaw just wanted a chance. He wanted a chance to beat Rock Bridge. He wanted a chance to triumph over his former teammates.
But with two outs, he needed catcher Johnny Pipes to somehow reach base.
Standing eagerly on deck, he watched his teammate swing and miss on a diving breaking ball from Bruins pitcher Sterling Odneal.
After standing motionless for several seconds, he dropped his head, hit his helmet with his bat and tossed both pieces of equipment to the ground.
“I wanted to be up there as bad as anyone else,” Shaw said. “I wanted to be that guy who hits that walk-off.”
Last season, Shaw attended Rock Bridge. But it was the academic unassigned time periods during the day that led to trouble at school, Shaw said. He was eventually cut from the baseball team.
He wanted to continue playing with his friends as a Bruin, but realized, after being removed from the team, after getting into too much trouble at school, that was no longer a possibility.
Unable to take another season away from baseball, his family moved out of the Rock Bridge district and into the Hickman district, Shaw said. His family moved for him, so he could be in a different academic environment and have an opportunity to continue playing baseball, he said.
“They have seven classes a day, you never have unassigned time, and I like that much better,” Shaw said. “I knew I wanted to be a Kewpie, and I've loved it ever since.”
The anticipation of Thursday's Hickman game at Rock Bridge tormented Shaw. The day of the game, he said he was to nervous to even talk to friends walking by in the hall at school. Silence was his way of dealing with nerves.
“I was so determined to win this game, and so eager to get to the game,” Shaw said. “Today was something I’ve never felt in my life, just revenge, just trying to get back at a team.”
As the game progressed, his nerves settled. He reached base in the second inning on a fielder’s choice, and stole second base, something uncommon for him.
“You could tell the way he hustled that he wanted it really bad,” said Rock Bridge shortstop Zach Kurzejeski, one of Shaw’s friends on the Bruins.
His final plate appearance resulted in a walk, helping Hickman score two runs on Rock Bridge starter Ryan Phillips, one of them the first earned run scored against Phillips this season.
Now, with the Kewpies down one run, it was no longer a nervous Shaw pacing back and forth in the Hickman dugout, but an excited one. Before Xavier Lewis could lead off the last half inning, Shaw hurled as much advise as he could at the second baseman.
After all, he’d been a Bruin longer than he’s been a Kewpie, and it was Rock Bridge pitcher Sterling Odneal closing the game, his best friend, Shaw said.
“I know all of their players, and I know what they throw,” Shaw said. “I was just trying to give any advantage that I had to try to pump my team up.”
He knew Odneal had a strong breaking ball. But he also knew that if he fell behind in the count, Odneal would be forced to throw a flatter fastball, something baseball players can sit on and drive, Shaw said.
But it was Odneal, after allowing two baserunners, who threw three strikes on three breaking balls against Pipes. Shaw’s fourth at bat, an opportunity that could’ve won the game, never happened.
"I know he was wanting to bat, too, but it's just the way it happened," Kurzejeski said. "He wanted to stick it back to us, and they tried hard, but we just got the best of them I guess."