BOONVILLE — Senior Hickman pitcher Tyler Kimble could not get away from the mud.
After an hour rain delay, Kimble and the Kewpies had just taken the field in the bottom of the fourth inning against Grain Valley on Thursday at the Boonville Wood Bat Tournament, and the dirt that covered the pitcher's mound had turned to mud.
As Kimble warmed up to face his next batter, something seemed wrong. Kimble's balance was off, and with every step he looked like a player walking on stilts.
When Hickman coach Dan Devine came to the mound to talk with his pitcher, Kimble pointed at his cleats. Devine had one of his players bring him a bat and began tapping on Kimble's cleats. Nothing.
Next, Devine tried giving Kimble his shoulder to lean on, while Kimble tried to scrape off one cleat with the other. Still nothing.
Grain Valley coach Mark Lyford came out of the opposing team's dugout with what looked like a black fire poker.
"We tried just about everything we could find," Devine said. "Just trying to get those cleats cleaned off."
After a few minutes of jabbing with the poker, Kimble appeared ready to go. Then his next pitch sailed high over junior catcher Spencer Mills' head.
Devine's next attempt to clear his cleats came in the bottom of the fifth when he brought out a screw and a towel to dry the ball. Devine handed the screw over to Kimble. Kimble took the screw and hopped around the mound on one foot, much to the delight of the crowd, as he attempted to scrape off his muddy cleats.
"What, is he dancing out there?" yelled one fan, laughing.
Despite all their efforts, Kimble and and the Kewpies looked out of rhythm after the delay and never recovered in a 5-2 loss to Grain Valley. They followed that with a 5-0 loss to Boonville.
The first game was delayed after repeated thunder. As rain began to fall, the temperature plummeted, and several fans began pulling out blankets and coats.
Mary Fitch, mother of freshman Hickman catcher Colby Fitch, has been watching her son play baseball since he was in Little League and had seen this kind of weather before.
"This is nothing new," Mary Fitch said. "We're used to this."
Mary Fitch wore a blue zippered coat, that covered a jacket underneath. She was bundled up in a blue and gray blanket. Her sister, Nonie Dudley, went with a purple blanket with gold letters that spelled out "Hickman Kewpies."
During the delay, several players yelled to the stands, asking parents for water and other items. Kewpies senior outfielder James Carter requested eye drops. Colby Fitch's request was more simple.
"He wanted food," Mary Fitch explained. No one could blame him.
The Kewpies had a long day of baseball. The first game lasted nearly 3 hours with the rain delay. The Kewpies' next game against Boonville took half an hour to start, as the grounds crew attempted to salvage a field that had taken an hour beating from the rain.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the rain and thunder returned. Hickman trailed Boonville 5-0 and the game was called after the fourth inning was completed. Hickman couldn't wait for the game to be over.
Boonville pitcher Grant Davis didn't allow a hit and had four strikeouts in four innings in an impressive performance.
In the bottom of the third inning, senior right fielder Joey Smith ducked when a pitch from Davis appeared to be heading right for him. But the pitch whipped back over the middle of the plate and a strike was called. Smith backed out of the box and shook his head. It was all the Kewpies could do.
The Kewpies finished the tournament with one win and two losses. Devine said his players benefited from playing quality opponents.
"We like playing good teams, and we like competing," Devine said. "They way we look at it, we are just trying to get better, and this just helps."
Hickman's next game is set for 11 a.m. Saturday against Francis Howell.