COLUMBIA — Jonathan Jones got off to a good start Wednesday night. The senior pitcher said he felt his warmups went well.
Then the game started.
He walked two of the first three hitters, then gave up a double that scored them both. Three had crossed the plate by the time he got out of the inning.
Jones was suffering from a sore right ankle and had to cope with a strike zone that he showed visible frustration with at times, snapping at the ball with his glove when getting it back and sometimes just lightly shaking his head.
And his pitches didn't seem to be working to their full degree. He had just one strikeout in five innings. But his main problem was consistently throwing strikes.
"He wasn't hitting the strike zone like he normally does," Kewpies coach Dan Devine said. "And when you don't hit the strike zone, then, you know, then they can start looking at, you know, start keying on his fastball."
Jones did begin to find a rhythm in the middle innings. And the Kewpies gave him plenty of run support. They led 7-4 going into the sixth and ended up with eight.
"Give me eight runs, I should get a win," he said. "I just didn't pitch well."
His ankle was still giving him trouble, causing him to struggle on following through on pitches.
"It kept the ball up in the zone because he couldn't turn on his ankle," junior Colby Fitch, Jones' catcher, said.
"I mean, I wasn't being consistent with the zone. I wasn't pounding the first pitch strike," Jones said. "I mean, it played a little role, but I should have overcame it."
Everything blew up in the sixth inning. Three hits, a walk and two errors, including one by Jones where he overthrew first base, forced him out before he recorded an out.
After the error, Jones was relieved in favor of junior Daniel Foley. Jersey long since untucked, Jones walked silently back to the dugout.
The Crusaders scored six runs and put themselves ahead for good. They went on to win, 11-8. The loss ran Hickman's record to 5-2.
Defensive fumbles did play a significant role in Helias' rally. But they weren't the root of Hickman's problems, at least not from Jones' viewpoint.
"I mean, it slows the game down a lot, I mean, and it just makes you frustrated," he said. "But, I mean, errors didn't lose us that game. I mean, not throwing strikes lost us that game, and just not making big plays when we needed to make them lost us that game."