COLUMBIA — After seeing several balls misplayed earlier in the game, senior right fielder James Carter was determined to make a play.
He got his chance in the fourth inning of Hickman's game against Helias on Wednesday, when a ball was hit his direction. He began to move towards it, covering his eyes with one hand and trying to track the ball's course. But at its peak, Carter struggled to find the baseball in the sun's blinding light.
On its way down, Carter finally located the ball. He sprinted to his left with his glove up. As he approached the outfield's edge, he leaped and made the catch as he crashed into the fence.
It was a great play for Hickman's baseball team, but it wasn't indicative of the team's afternoon. The Kewpies (4-4) committed several errors: Balls bounced off infielders' gloves, and seemingly routine ground balls turned into run-scoring hits. It was a far cry from what Carter is used to seeing from his team.
"We are doing these things perfectly in practice," Carter said. "We're not bringing it all together yet, but it's still early in the season."
The fielding struggles proved costly in the Kewpies' 11-8 loss to the Helias Crusaders (6-0) on Wednesday. But poor defense wasn't the only reason for the high-scoring game.
The sun, which had started to set around the beginning of the game, caused problems for everyone standing in the field.
"We haven't had too many sunny days for some reason, but the sun's a big deal here at Hickman." Carter said. "We're still trying to get adjusted to it."
Hickman coach Dan Devine talked with Lou Brock, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, in January about fielding fly balls. Brock played left field for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1964 to 1979.
"Lou said, 'You know what, that sun was here yesterday, and that sun is going to be here tomorrow, and you know what, it's not going away,'" Devine said. "You got to learn how to deal with it, and that's what we have to do."
Hickman's used its offense to offset its defense. After two innings, Helias led 5-4, but the Kewpies tied it at 5 in the bottom of the fifth inning. In the sixth inning, Helias junior Cam Berendzen hit a three-run double, giving his team the 8-5 lead. Hickman answered in the bottom half of the inning with three runs of its own.
"I like the fact that we don't give up," Devine said. "We keep battling, and we've done it all year, and it's part of who we are."
The Kewpies ran out of rallies in the seventh inning, when Helias scored three runs but the Kewpies couldn't get a man on base.
Hickman's offense wasn't to blame.
"We got to quit giving up so many outs in an inning," Devine said. "We're giving them five, six, seven, sometimes eight outs in an inning. Our pitchers are doing an adequate job, and we're just making them be out there too long."