COLUMBIA — The fans in the bleachers at Rock Bridge High School were nervous during the Bruins' baseball season opener. They bounced their knees and chewed their fingers.
They yelled out scores and times as they refreshed their iPhones. No. 2 Missouri men's basketball was losing its tournament game against 15-seed Norfolk State with just minutes left.
Phones then dropped despairingly into laps as news of Missouri's tournament loss settled in.
But on the field, there was no lack of confidence.
Rock Bridge senior catcher Jeff Ausmus was at bat in the bottom of the fourth inning. Runners were on second and third with one out. The Rock Bridge dug out was cheering. Ausmus then cranked a line drive into right field for an RBI single, giving the Bruins their second run of the game in a 2-1 win over Waynesville.
"It felt pretty good," Ausmus said. "I was ready to come out here and play, ready to get the first game out of the way and get the nerves out. Now I'm ready for the next one."
Senior shortstop Ryan Phillips was also ready for the Bruins first game. Leading off, he doubled to left field on the first pitch of the season and went on to score.
"That's my thing," Phillips said. "I like swinging at that first pitch because you know it's gonna be right there because the pitcher's not going to want to start the game off with a ball. You just attack the first pitch and try to hit something hard, and it worked out."
After striking out in the third inning, he doubled again in the fifth. Phillips also closed the game on the mound. He struck out two and grounded out one batter to end the game in the top of the seventh inning.
Phillips wasn't the only pitcher to succeed for the Bruins. Senior John Osborne started the game, and even while fans' eyes were glued to mobile phone gamecasts of the NCAA Tournament, occasional cheers of "Here you go John-O" rang out for the pitcher who struck out three batters and allowed four hits in five innings.
"You just want to go out there and throw strikes and let your defense play behind you," Osborne said. "You just want to go out and get the first win out of the way."
Osborne said focusing on pitching and defensive will carry the team this season.
"Eighty-five percent of our practice is dedicated to pitching and fielding and we get our hitting in at the end, but defense is what we're gonna live off this year," Osborne said.
The Bruins play next at 5 p.m. Monday at home against St. Dominic High School.