JEFFERSON CITY – It is an elegant play, and an exceptionally useful one, too.
The double play requires three infielders working in concert, multiple moving parts combining with little room for error. Field the ball cleanly, throw to second, catch, make a quick exchange from glove to hand, then throw to first.
When it works, you get two outs at once, sapping the opposing team's momentum. But sometimes, the hope that comes with an easy ground ball with a runner on first turns into nothing, and that can be equally demoralizing.
In the Hickman baseball team's 7-3 loss to Rock Bridge on Monday, the Kewpies completed two double plays, one in the second inning and the other in the third. Those certainly helped senior pitcher Jonathan Jones, but they ultimately didn't matter. All the scoring was done in the first inning.
And it was a potential double play Hickman botched in that frame that seemed to make the biggest difference in the game.
After Hickman took a 3-0 lead in the top of the inning, Jones began by forcing a groundout from Rock Bridge sophomore right fielder Joe Barbee. After clunking senior second baseman Mike Nemec with a pitch, he forced sophomore center fielder Connor Brumfield to hit a grounder toward Hickman senior shortstop Ryan McMahan. It looked like the Kewpies were going to escape unharmed.
McMahan was going to field the ball, tag second and fire to first. He probably wasn't even going to need the second baseman's help.
Except he looked up and took his eyes off the ball. He bobbled it and it bounced toward the bag, and while senior second baseman Cory Riley tried to shovel the ball up, he couldn't get it cleanly in time.
Both runners were safe, and from there, the Kewpies seemed to lose all semblance of control. A dizzying combination of poor defense and clutch Rock Bridge hitting resulted in seven runs in the bottom of the first. It was as if the missed double play opportunity sucked all the energy from Hickman's dugout and deposited it across the diamond.
Though the Kewpies loaded the bases twice from that point on, they couldn't get another run.
"These are kids, they're 16, 17, 18 year old kids, and they're in the most important game they've played in their life," Hickman coach Dan Devine Jr. said. "You know, things happen. They don't want it to happen, but it does. You keep wanting them to have faith in themselves and get themselves out of it, and we just didn't do it soon enough."
The Kewpies end their season at 15-7.