COLUMBIA — Taylor Richter and Kristin Eiken were warming up out by the fence in center field just as they did before every game.
Eiken was taking some practice swings to limber up when the bat suddenly flew from her hands. Up into the air it went, right over the fence until it fell to the ground on the other side.
"Taylor never let it go," Eiken said of the mishap that happened when she and Richter played for Blair Oaks High School in Jefferson City. The scene has stayed with the friends, who came to the Columbia College softball team together in 2011.
They have played together since kindergarten, when softball was still T-ball. And with the looks the juniors exchange, laughing about thrown bats and childhood memories, it's clear they feel most comfortable when they're with each other.
On Monday, in the top of the fourth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against Hannibal-LaGrange at Cosmopolitan Park, Eiken steps to the plate. After pitching a 9-0 win in the first game, Richter sits in the dugout. She'll sit this game out.
This doesn't stop Richter from dancing to Eiken's introductory song or from chanting "Eikie! Eikie! Eikie!" as her childhood friend bats. Especially after Eiken helped out Richter with two RBIs in the first game.
They can look to anyone on the team for support, Eiken and Richter say. But even the coaches notice the tightness of the "Jeff City girls."
Their nicknames are indicative of their shared past. They have always been "Eik" and "Tay," but they have their own names for each other as well.
"I call her 'T-Ricky,' but that hasn't really caught on," Eiken said, laughing.
Their inside jokes don't stop with the nicknames, or even with softball. Both were members of the National Honor Society at Blair Oaks, and they remember doing a National Honor Society scavenger hunt together, which involved taking pictures of certain events. One of these events included going through a doggie door.
And that's about all they'll say about it. They giggle at each other, sharing some understanding about how much of the story they should share.
As they walk out of the fence after defeating Hannibal-LaGrange again 6-1, all bats and equipment securely in hand this time, it's clear that after years of playing together, their relationship is still secure.