COLUMBIA — Hickman designated hitter Jared Hyler hasn't seen many good pitches over the past few nights.
After being hit on the right elbow in a game against St. Charles on Tuesday night, Hyler was hit in the same spot in the third inning against Wentzville Holt on Wednesday. He was walked in the fifth and sixth.
Hickman (15-9) plays next at 10 a.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Class 4, District 9 tournament against tournament host Troy Buchanan.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Hyler stepped to the plate.
On the previous at-bat, catcher Colby Fitch had batted in two runs with a deep shot to right center field, bringing the Kewpies within three runs. Now with two runners on base, Hyler was the potential tying run.
The grandfather of Wentzville Holt player Alex Meyer could not be silenced.
"Throw him the knick-knack ball! Hard, hard, real hard!" he shouted to the Indians' pitcher from the stands behind the plate.
But Hyler looked calm and composed as he kicked at the dirt and adjusted his helmet.
On the first pitch that came his way, Hyler knew that it was hittable. He swung hard and rocketed the ball deep into center field.
But it wasn't enough. Instead of flying over the fence, the ball dropped harmlessly for a fly out, ending Hickman's regular season with a 10-7 loss.
Hyler, who hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against Francis Howell one week earlier, said he wasn't shaken by the loss or the fly out. As the team's designated hitter when he isn't playing first base, Hyler's 5-foot-9, 225-pound body is made for power hitting, which is what he's looking to do in the postseason.
"With that one, it definitely gives me some confidence," Hyler said. "I'm seeing the ball better. It's definitely about time for me to get back into my hitting groove."
Hickman coach Dan Devine Jr. said he is also pleased to see Fitch and Hyler connecting with the ball heading into the playoffs.
"We want everyone to take good at-bats and take good swings," Devine Jr. said. "When two of your better hitters are doing that, it just makes you that much better, so we're definitely happy to see that."
After ending the regular season with a stretch of three games in as many nights, the Kewpies have two nights to recover before starting district competition Saturday morning. In their opener, they will play tournament host Troy Buchanan, who Hickman defeated 11-9 just five days ago.
"It's easy to overlook a team you've already beat, but our mentality is just focusing on them and jumping at them early and putting them away as soon as we can," Hyler said.
Even though the loss against Wentzville Holt was inconsequential to Hickman's seed in the district tournament, Hyler said they're going to use the loss as motivation to prepare for Saturday.
"We're out here to play, we're out here to win," Hyler said. "We're ready for Saturday. That's our focus right now."
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder