Catcher Tanner Cooper can't lift Rock Bridge baseball to victory

Monday, April 29, 2013 | 9:40 p.m. CDT; updated 10:23 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 29, 2013

COLUMBIA — The ball rose off the bat and, almost in unison, five sets of hands lifted and started clapping.

When the ball descended, finally dropping into center field before three Rock Bridge runners crossed the plate, one member of the cheering group stopped clapping and pumped her fist. Laura Sievert screamed out a loud "Yes!" as her son, Bruins senior catcher Tanner Cooper, stopped at second base for a bases-clearing double.

Tuesday's game

Rock Bridge (17-5) at Jefferson City

WHEN: 5 p.m.
WHERE: Vivion Field, Jefferson City

The rally was on.

Rock Bridge's comeback from an eight-run deficit came up short in a 12-9 loss to Helias Catholic on Monday night, but win or lose, seeing the family providing support for its favorite player has been common this season.

Cooper, one of six seniors on the Bruins' roster, continues to demand respect from both opposing pitchers as well as his team's. After Rock Bridge coach Justin Towe ripped into his team for their early struggles, Cooper stood in front of the dugout and calmly talked about the young crop of pitchers he feels responsible for.

"It's good and bad having these young guys," Cooper said. "It's not like the past when we had Division I talent on the mound all the time. That's rewarding for me as a senior to help them learn, but there are a lot of ups and downs."

Cooper paused and looked back toward the bleachers, toward his family members that remained in the crowd chatting with fellow fans.

Just an hour earlier, one of those family members, Cooper's uncle, Steve Cooper, arched his back and pointed out three people in the front row of the home bleachers. 

"Those are his grandparents," said Steve Cooper before turning around and pointing to Tanner Cooper's mom and then motioning toward the top of the Bruins' dugout, where father Eric Cooper stood snapping pictures of the team.

"You could say we're pretty tight-knit," Steve Cooper said.

Sievert looked up and nodded before returning her gaze to her iPad and the game's box score.

Tanner Cooper's parents have always taken an active role in their son's beloved sport, pushing him into baseball when he was still a toddler and coaching him until the sixth grade. When their time as his coach came to an end, they found another way to stay involved, alternating between snapping pictures, scoring each game for the website iScore and offering support from the stands.

"The year he started was a great year to get involved," Sievert said, "with the St. Louis Rams winning the Super Bowl, the St. Louis Blues winning the President's Trophy, and the St. Louis Cardinals making the playoffs. Now his younger brother (15-year-old Tate Cooper) has grown up and is a freshman (at Tolton Catholic), so baseball has never stopped being a part of their lives."

Recently, when Tanner Cooper was struggling to make a decision on where to play baseball in college, it was his family that provided the extra incentive for him to choose Division III Westminster College in nearby Fulton.

"I wanted to be as close to them as possible," Tanner Cooper said. "My family likes to see my games and stay involved together, and that's really important to me as well." 

With time running out on his final season as a Bruin, the self-described "cerebral thinker" has taken time to reflect and soak it all in with his family.

"They are so awesome and supportive," Tanner Cooper said. "Without them, this final season wouldn't be what it is right now. It's bittersweet to think about the end, but we've still got a ways to go yet."

He smiled and turned around, heading toward the dugout and his teammates. Outside the field, his family lingered, waiting for him to join them.

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