COLUMBIA – On Monday, for the first time since he joined the varsity baseball team his junior year, Gage Kiesling was a position player.
It was senior night for Hickman. The scene in the stands looked the part, with framed photo collages for each of the Kewpies' seniors resting in the shade under a tent and miniature plastic jerseys affixed to a fence adjacent to Providence Road.
After the team won 11-1 over Rolla in five innings, the senior players received flowers and took part in an on-field ceremony after the game.
Kewpies coach Dan Devine Jr. also made sure that every senior started the game. But two of them, Kiesling and Andrew Roseman, are almost solely pitchers, so only one of them could start on the mound.
When Devine Jr. let Kiesling know Sunday that he was going to play right field, it wasn't too much of a shock. The Baker University commit usually practices his swing and takes fly balls just to stay prepared, and he played outfield and hit while on the junior varsity team.
Kiesling was excited to get out and "make a difference" for the team, even with the sun glaring directly at him above the home dugout.
He wore sunglasses to block the sun, readied himself before every pitch and ran after foul balls. He looked like any other outfielder. But when the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, there was a bit more pressure on Kiesling to play like one, too.
Roseman whiffed the next batter he faced, but then Rolla's Hayden Neilson smacked a fly ball right at Kiesling, who immediately recognized and ran for it, thinking the play was going to be easy as ever.
"And then it crossed right through the sun," he said. "I was like, 'Oh, shoot,' but I held onto it, and I'm glad I did because I probably would have got yelled at by everybody if I dropped it."
The Kewpies got out of the first inning unscathed, allowing the hitters, Kiesling included, to go to work. He went two for three, with an RBI single in the first inning, a hit that caused his mother to exclaim, "My boy can hit!"
Kiesling pitched a scoreless fifth inning for the Kewpies, who won when the mercy rule kicked in after senior first baseman Jonathan Jones' grand slam. Senior left fielder Jake Cowan also hit a home run.
Hickman (13-5) is scheduled to play McCluer North at 12:15 p.m. and Union at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Jefferson City.