JEFFERSON CITY — The failure to make the big play has been central to Hickman's losses this season. On Monday in Jefferson City, that play came in the bottom of the fourth inning with the game tied at 2.
Hickman pitcher Jon Sanders stared at Jefferson City batter Connor Hager. With two outs and the bases loaded, Sanders needed to get the out to keep the Kewpies in the game.
Sanders' third pitch met the end of Hager's bat and then bounced along the ground towards Hickman shortstop Devin Urquitea. Urquitea was in position to make the play, but the ball bounced off his glove, falling in front of his feet. Urquitea tried to pick up the ball but bobbled it long enough for Hager to reach first base and a run to score. Instead of an inning-ending ground out, the Kewpies allowed Jefferson City to stay alive, and the Jays added two more runs off a double by Matt Monaghan.
"It was a costly error," Hickman catcher Colby Fitch said. "If we had it, three runs wouldn't have scored. It was a mood changer."
The Kewpies (6-7) never recovered, and Jefferson City (11-4) defeated Hickman 12-6.
In the fifth inning, Sanders didn't get an out and was charged with four more runs. This negated his strong pitching in the second and third innings when he allowed one hit.
The play was not the only reason the Kewpies lost, but it was indicative of their early season struggles.
"We always have an inning or two where we just don't make the plays, or we don't get a hit, and we've got to start learning how to do them," Hickman coach Dan Devine said.
The Kewpies rallied in the sixth inning and cut the lead to 9-5. That rally was negated in the bottom of the sixth, when Jefferson City scored its final three runs.
Devine knows his team has been struggling at times to capitalize in the key moments, but he doesn't want to focus on a play like Urquitea's error.
"There's just not one play," said Devine, who believes success will come when the Kewpies are more consistent in crucial moments.
"I don't want them to come up with excuses," Devine said. "We want to stay away from that. I want them to focus on the things we can do to get better."