COLUMBIA – It took just three quick pitches, the first of the game, for the tone to be set in the Rock Bridge baseball team's 4-2 victory over visiting Hickman on Monday.
When Kewpies junior Colby Fitch stepped in against Bruins sophomore pitcher Chandler Wyatt, the expectation was that Fitch was not going to be an easy out, despite what the jeers from the Bruins' student section suggested. The slugging catcher almost never is.
But Wyatt spotted the first pitch low and outside, and Fitch whiffed on it. Same thing with the second one.
So why change something if it's working? Wyatt threw a change-up in the same spot, Fitch swung through it and that was the first out.
"I just told Chandler just to be aggressive and, you know, trust the stuff and go right at him," Rock Bridge (21-6) assistant coach Kelly Fick said. "You know, if he hits it, he hits it, you know, we've got a chance it goes in the glove somewhere."
The fact that he could get a Division I commit, one of the most feared hitters in the state, out so easily meant the rest of Hickman's lineup posed little challenge. Wyatt blazed through four innings without allowing a run against a team that had scored 10 or more in its past six games.
Wyatt allowed a fly-out to deep center by Hickman (13-6) senior left fielder Jake Cowan in the first inning, but that was the hardest the Kewpies were able to hit anything off him.
Their two base hits off the sophomore were both bouncing balls up the middle, and Wyatt was able to keep pitches low in the strike zone and induce shallow fly balls and easy grounders for most of his outs. He recorded just two strikeouts in his outing.
Hickman almost immediately started hitting better and cutting into the Bruins' four-run lead when Wyatt was out of the game, getting long doubles from Fitch and senior pitcher Jonathan Jones.
But the Kewpies only managed two runs, one each in the fifth and sixth, and Rock Bridge junior Ryan Bernskoetter set them down quietly in the seventh to give the Bruins the victory in the teams' only regular season matchup. The rivals were scheduled to play at Hickman in late April, but that game was rained out.
"It feels great," Wyatt said about getting the win. "It feels better than anything."
Rock Bridge plays Fatima on Tuesday and Hickman faces Wentzville Holt on Wednesday in the final games of the regular season before the district tournament begins Saturday in Jefferson City.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.