Bittle carries Rock Bridge baseball team towards playoffs

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | 7:06 p.m. CDT; updated 7:53 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Rock Bridge senior Travis Bittle pitches in the fourth inning against Kirksville on April 28 at Rock Bridge High School. The Bruins won 4-2.

COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge baseball coach Justin Towe’s eyes light up when he is asked about senior Travis Bittle.

“Travis is a great kid. Doesn’t say a whole lot, but he’s a hard worker,” Towe said.

Thursday's game

Francis Howell (22-2)
at Rock Bridge (22-1)

WHEN: 5 p.m.
WHERE: Rock Bridge Field

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He'll rattle off Bittle's stats to show just how important the pitcher/third baseman's contributions to the Bruins' baseball team have been. He'll mention a stretch of games a few weeks ago when Bittle was really hitting the ball well.

“He was 9-for-18 with 15 RBIs in one week," Towe said. "Biggest week I’ve ever seen from a high school kid. He’s pretty much a machine.”

But Bittle's had his share of struggles this season.

Playing third base was difficult for Bittle, who'd only pitched for the Bruins' varsity baseball team before this season. Bittle holds the team record for saves, with six during his sophomore season, Towe pointed out. Bittle went 6-0 as a starter last season.

Bittle's low point this season came in a 13-5 loss to Blue Springs South on March 22. He allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings on the mound, went 0-for-3 at the plate and made an error after moving to third base.

But Towe said Bittle put all his troubles behind him during a team trip to Florida and at the Smith-Cotton Tournament earlier in the season.

“I think he had eight RBIs during the tournament," Towe said. "He’s just been breaking balls.”

A game-winning single against Eureka helped him regain his confidence at the plate.

“That pumped me up a lot,” Bittle said, who's since been a key to the Bruins' current 21-game winning streak.

“I like how things are going,” he said.

Now, Towe said, Bittle has found his comfort zone at third — though the player says he still enjoys pitching more.

“I like the feeling after you pitch a good game,” Bittle said. “It makes you feel really good.”

But, he's quick to give credit to his fielders, who've improved their defense since the start of the year.

“That definitely helps me out,” he said.

With only two games left before the playoffs start, the Bruins need Bittle’s arm and bat to stay strong. The Bruins take on Francis Howell at 5 p.m. Thursday at Rock Bridge Field.

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