COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge pitcher John Miles was eager to pitch against rival Hickman. He felt confident that if his team could get a few runs, the game would be over. He didn't have to wait long.
On the first pitch of the game, shortstop Ryan Phillips bludgeoned a pitch from Hickman's Grant Harper, sending the ball flying over the left-field wall. As soon as Miles saw the ball go out, he knew the game was in hand.
"When Ryan hit that home run, that was awesome," Miles said. "I just took a deep breath and was like, that's game."
Miles' prediction proved to be accurate. Rock Bridge defeated host Hickman 8-0 Wednesday with Miles pitching six strong innings.
Miles' pitches were all over the plate, with lots of movement that often left Hickman batters perplexed. Miles, who committed in December to play at Missouri, dominated the game from the mound. He struck out seven while allowing only four hits.
"Well, he's not going to Missouri for nothing," Rock Bridge coach Justin Towe said, laughing.
Despite the impressive stats, though, Towe said he thought Miles wasn't playing to his full potential.
"He didn't even have his best stuff today, but that tells you just how good he can be," Towe said.
But Miles didn't do it by himself. Phillips' early home run surprised many in attendance. Several Hickman and Rock Bridge fans were still scrambling to find seats when Phillips knocked the first pitch out of the park.
"Coach always makes fun of me, that I'm not a conventional hitter because I don't take a lot of pitches," Phillips said. "I get in the box, get ready, and if that first pitch is where I want it, then I'm swinging as hard as I can."
After the early home run from Phillips, Rock Bridge (13-1) scored three more runs to take a 4-0 lead against Hickman (6-6) in the first inning.
Hickman coach Dan Devine watched from the dugout as Rock Bridge continued to pile on the runs.
"We left some balls up in the strike zone, and they took advantage of it," Devine said.
Hickman's Harper struggled in the first inning. After giving up the home run to Phillips, Harper hit Rock Bridge second basemen Drew Linneman in the back with the ball. As Linneman took first base, Harper looked a bit shaken. Devine came out to calm his pitcher, but Harper struggled through the rest of the inning.
After a scoreless second, Harper surrendered two more runs in the third. Senior Jon Sanders replaced Harper in the fourth. Sanders settled the Kewpies down, pitching three straight scoreless innings. The only problem was the Kewpies could not score off Miles.
"He started off with his fastball early in the game and started mixing it up later on and really got us off balance," Sanders said. "He was really tough to hit, especially later on in the game."
Sanders did what he could to slow the Bruins down but finally gave up two more runs in the seventh.
"They have great hitters, and that's all there is to it," Sanders said.
With just one loss in their first 14 games, the Bruins are attempting to replicate the success of last year, a season in which the Bruins went 24-3, winning the Class 4, District 10 championship.
"Early in the season I kind of beat it over the head with these guys about last year," Towe said. "I've made a conscious decision to not talk about it any more because it's their season now. But at the same time these guys don't want that torch to burn out. They want to keep it going."
Hickman has had an up-and-down season so far. The Kewpies have played well at times but struggled to keep any sort of consistency.
"We gotta come ready to play," Devine said. "You especially want to come out and do that against your rivals and be in the ball game, but we didn't do that, and we didn't compete very well."