COLUMBIA — If it weren’t for Max Byers, there wouldn’t have been much for the Rock Bridge baseball team to celebrate.
Already down 3-0 in the fourth inning, the No. 1-ranked team in the state got off to a shaky start Monday.
Rock Bridge vs. Jefferson City
When: Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Where: Rock Bridge High School
At least a deep hit into right field gave Byers and Bruins’ fans something to cheer for. Standing on second base, he had just driven in the Bruins' first RBI of the game to secure a Rock Bridge career record for doubles at 24.
“I just kind of hoped it would be a hit that would fire up the team,” Byers said. “I was hoping it would spark a rally.”
While Byers crossed home plate on a single by junior Brendan James, the ball Byers’ hit was being tossed to his father standing on top of the team’s dugout taking photographs.
His new memorabilia represents a milestone in a career of great hitting for Rock Bridge, head coach Justin Towe said.
“He’s always hit the ball hard and far, and for a high average,” Towe said. “Ever since freshman year, he’s been a very good hitter for us.”
Aside from 10 doubles, he has a .404 batting average, three home runs and 21 RBIs in 19 games this season. He bats fourth in the lineup for the Bruins, and is their biggest power threat.
Byers said that for some reason he’s always been a strong doubles hitter at Rock Bridge.
“It’s a big field, so not a lot’s going to leave, and I put a lot near the edges of the field, so it works out that way,” Byers said.
But despite the milestone, Byers’ run in the fourth inning was the team’s last, and there wasn’t much else for Rock Bridge in its 7-2 loss against visiting Helias (14-3). The Bruins (17-2) had earned the top ranking in Class 4 on Friday in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association poll.
There were a few strikeouts and a few singles for Rock Bridge, but for the most part, the celebrating belonged to the Helias fans.
After sophomore Brad Troyer slipped and dropped a line drive to center field for the Bruins third error of the game, Helias took a 6-2 lead, only to score another run later in the inning.
“I will admit I was excited but not anymore,” Byers said. “I think we’re all disappointed. We didn’t come out with the same fire that we’ve come out with all of these other games that we’ve been winning.”
Focused on the game, Towe didn’t realize Byers created a Bruins record. But he eventually found out listening to dugout chatter, and was proud of his hitter.
Everyone has individual goals along with team goals, and that is one that Byers wanted this season, Towe said.
“As a player, you’re always looking for some way to make your mark,” Towe said.
PHILLIPS SHOULD PLAY TUESDAY:
After sitting out two consecutive games from a concussion he suffered in practice last week, Bruins sophomore ace Ryan Phillips (6-0) will likely pitch Tuesday against Jefferson City, Towe said.
“If not, he'll be playing at some point this week,” Towe said. “He just had a minor concussion, and that's something you have to take a lot of precautions with.”
While doing situational fielding drills, Phillips, at second base, came in to catch a ball when the runner at first base accidentally ran into him, kneeing him in the side of the head, Towe said.
Phillips said he is recovering fine from the injury and also expects to play Tuesday.