COLUMBIA — Even when it doesn't have everything clicking, the Rock Bridge baseball team can't seem to do anything but win ball games.
For the 18th straight game, the Bruins (19-1) were victorious, defeating Kirksville 4-2 on Thursday at Rock Bridge High School.
This one didn't come easy though.
The Bruins' last game was six days ago, a win against Smith-Cotton, and Rock Bridge looked sluggish throughout.
Senior pitcher Travis Bittle didn't have his normal command on the mound Thursday, and he threw several balls that bounced in front of the plate. But when Bittle did throw it over the plate, Kirksville could do nothing with it. He pitched four innings, giving up two hits and walking three.
"Not playing a game in a week or so, we were pretty rusty," Bittle said. "We had mistakes in a couple innings, and I didn't throw strikes."
Bittle looked strong through the first few innings but got in a jam in the third. Two straight errors by the Bruins allowed runners on first and second with no outs. Bittle got the next batter to ground out, with runners moving to second and third. Then the Bruins made a play that could have changed the outcome of the game.
Kirksville outfielder Bo Western hit a grounder to second basemen Drew Linneman. Linneman faked a throw to third base, holding the runner there, and then threw to first baseman Landon Clapp to get the out at first. Once Clapp got the ball, he fired it back two second base, where the Tigers runner had slipped, turning an inning-ending double play.
It was the type of play that a team on an 18-game winning streak makes.
Bruins coach Justin Towe said the reason for his team's success is simple.
"Pitching," Towe said.
"We knew we could score runs, but pitching, pitching, pitching, with some catching behind that, and we are giving ourselves a chance to win ball games."
The consistent winning has strengthened the Bruins' camaraderie.
"We're excited; we just want to keep going," Bittle said. "We've all been friends for I don't know how long, and we're a family. It's awesome."
The Bruins' next game is Saturday at Warsaw High School.