COLUMBIA — Tom Petty’s "Running Down the Dream" blared through the stadium speakers as fans left the Rock Bridge baseball stadium after the Bruins defeated Fort Zumwalt North 3-2 on Tuesday night in the first round of the state tournament.
The Bruins attended to their usual postgame activities while Fort Zumwalt North met in the outfield after their season-ending loss.
It could easily have been the other way around.
Without a few key plays the Panthers could have been the ones excitedly exchanging congratulatory high-fives from their parents and attending to postgame interviews while Rock Bridge would be the ones huddled in the corner of right field wondering how they could have handled important situations better.
With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the final inning, Rock Bridge senior Robert DeGraaff strode to the batter’s box with two outs and his important situation at hand. DeGraaff had gone 0-for-2 in his first two at-bats and was pitches away from potentially walking back to the dugout for the last time representing the green and gold.
Everything seemed to come down to this moment, but things had been no different off the field. Prom had been 5 days earlier and with classwork coming to a close, his high school days will be over in less than two weeks.
With events culminating at this point, it could be understandable how DeGraaff might unnerve under pressure. But with the season riding on his shoulders, DeGraaff was not deterred. He swung hard and sent the ball screaming past the infield to double in the winning run.
“I had all the confidence, and I didn’t lose anything from the first at-bats,” DeGraaff said.
His game-winning heroics shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. DeGraaff has had the hot hand lately for the Bruins. He drove in an RBI when things mattered most for the second consecutive game and extended his high school baseball career.
“... one of the seniors, one of the leaders, a guy who works his tail end off,” Bruins coach Justin Towe said about DeGraaff. “Those are guys who are supposed to get it done ... He’s done that a lot over the years.”
With so much on the minds of the Rock Bridge baseball players, it’s reassuring to know that DeGraaff can be counted on in the clutch.
“We reached our goal Friday by winning districts, and now we’re trying reach our dream. We’re just going to keep fighting and playing,” Towe said.
With players like DeGraaff fighting and playing, there’s no reason to think that the Bruins can’t take Tom Petty’s words to heart.