Warm weather, new training facility help Rock Bridge baseball team prepare for season opener

Thursday, March 15, 2012 | 8:09 p.m. CDT; updated 6:36 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

COLUMBIA — In the on-deck circle at Rock Bridge High School's baseball practice, a group of players is tossing a water bottle around and taking drinks. Even in the late afternoon shade, it's hot, and it has been like this all week.

A couple hundred yards away from the team scrimmage on the baseball field, the team's new indoor practice facility sits empty.

With its two full batting cages and three pitching mounds, the facility has allowed the Rock Bridge coaching staff to host open practices prior to the start of the season and to work with pitchers over the past two weeks.

"It's not a huge place by any means, but to us, who've never had anything, it's pretty cool," Rock Bridge head coach Justin Towe said. "If we need to take kids in to work on some mechanics, pitching, we can do that. It just gives us the flexibility to do a few more things that we might not have been able to do in the past."

But with temperatures in the 70s and 80s over the past week, the Bruins have had little need for it.

In a typical year, inclement preseason weather has forced the team to practice indoors or on the football field, but the weather this year has already allowed the Bruins six outdoor scrimmages.

"The season does start so quick, and we've been so fortunate with the weather," Towe said. "Sometimes you have to go down to the turf on the football field and scrimmage down there, which means you don't have as big of an outfield. You have to be a little creative so that hitters can see live arms and pitchers can throw against hitters."

Towe said he can't remember a preseason as nice as this one.

"I feel like we're pretty far ahead of where we usually are this time of year," he said.

The scrimmages have allowed the Bruins to fine-tune their strategy for the season. During practice on Monday, each inning began with a runner on base to focus on making proper defensive adjustments and keeping the pitcher aware of runners trying to steal bases.

Heading into the season opener at 5 p.m. Friday against Waynesville, Towe said the Bruins would keep that focus on pitching and defensive adjustments.

"You know for us, it's always pitching and defense," Towe said. "If we can do those things, I feel pretty confident that we're going to score some runs, and I think we'll have a chance to be pretty competitive and even pretty successful."

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