COLUMBIA — After the Rock Bridge baseball team's home game against Smith Cotton, 5-year-old Tyler Towe waddled clumsily over to the empty infield to run the bases.
As Towe giggled and rounded third base, the Bruins applauded from their post game huddle as he made his way toward home plate.
Tyler Towe is Rock Bridge coach Justin Towe's youngest son, and his post game base running was fitting after a five-inning, 12-2 run-rule victory Tuesday over visiting Smith-Cotton that was fueled by stolen bases and sharp base running.
After a relatively slow start, the Bruins stole six bases between the third and fifth innings. Pinch runner Brian Beckman earned two bases in the third inning after Smith-Cotton pitcher Dalton Christian made a bad throw while attempting to make him tag up at first.
Rock Bridge junior Mike Nemec stole bases on two consecutive pitches in the fourth before scoring in Rock Bridge's dominant seven-run inning, and freshman Connor Brumfield and junior Tyler Hill also recorded a steal each.
Beckman, who usually courtesy runs for the pitcher or catcher, came in to play right field at the end of the game. After hitting a single in the bottom of the fifth, he scored the 12th and final run of the game off of junior catcher Tanner Cooper's single.
Beckman said the strategy to successful base running is a difficult balance to achieve. In practice, Towe has players do drills where they watch the pitcher's hand when he throws. Players train themselves to know when a pitch is going to be slow and land on the plate, which presents a better opportunity to steal than a fast pitch that reaches the catcher more quickly.
"He says be smart and aggressive, which is kind of contradicting itself, because if you're smart, you don't want to always go, but he wants us to be on base a lot and get in scoring position for the hitters that we have," Beckman said.
Justin Towe, who high-fived his son after his post game base running, said stealing and getting extra bases are a key part of the team's offensive strategy.
"We have to try and manufacture runs," Towe said. "We're bunting, stealing, squeezing, we're doing all those things to try and get our kids in motion and also put pressure on the defense. If we're able to do those things successfully, it's really hard for high school teams to defend that."
The Bruins (11-2) play next at 5 p.m. on Friday against the host Yellowjackets at the Lebanon Tournament.