High school baseball teams prepare for regular season in scrimmage

Saturday, March 15, 2014 | 8:46 p.m. CDT; updated 10:08 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 15, 2014
Battle, Hickman, Rock Bridge and Fort Zumwalt West high schools play in a four-way scrimmage Saturday at Hickman.

COLUMBIA — Things were different the last time Rock Bridge High School and Hickman High met on the baseball diamond.

The last time the crosstown rivals played, Rock Bridge knocked Hickman out of district competition with a 7-3 victory. Rock Bridge moved on to sectionals, and 10 Kewpies' careers ended.

But when the two teams got back together on Saturday, Hickman coach Dan Devine Jr. said the score didn't even matter.

Hickman hosted a preseason scrimmage to break in its new turf field on Saturday. Rock Bridge, Battle High School and Fort Zumwalt West joined the Kewpies for an afternoon of friendly three-inning games.

The scores did not matter. No one's season was on the line, nor were the careers of the seniors coming to an end. What mattered was how each team used the scrimmage to prepare for the upcoming regular season, which starts in less than a week.

"Today was about getting the first game jitters out," Rock Bridge coach Justin Towe said.

Rock Bridge will open the season ranked No. 4 in Class 5. The Bruins are returning most of the players who led the team to quarterfinals last season. Towe used Saturday to get some of his younger players experience against varsity competition.

When Towe put a pitcher on the mound with no varsity experience, he wasn't upset that Fort Zumwalt West racked up four runs on the Bruins in one inning. He was just glad his players got it out of the way now.

"I'd rather those things happen today," Towe said. "Our young pitcher struggled. That's his first time in a varsity game, so that's going to happen."

Unlike Rock Bridge, Battle High does not have the luxury of letting its younger players compete for playing time. Battle High coach Jared Wood is still trying to figure his starting lineup out.

"We've been together for two weeks. That's not nearly enough time to figure out where all the bits and pieces need to go," Wood said. "We're just here learning right now."

Wood used several pitchers and switched players in and out of different positions in the field trying to find the best nine. The scrimmage allowed him to learn a bit about his team and to teach without feeling bad after a loss.

After Battle High took an 8-0 thumping from Rock Bridge, none of the Spartans hung their heads.

"We're not really looking at the scoreboard," Wood said. "But the main point here is just to learn."

Despite the daunting prospect of leading a first-year program with no seniors into varsity competition, Wood is excited.

"I had trouble sleeping last night and got up early this morning," Woods said. "This is something special."

Hickman was happy to welcome Battle High to its field in the first game of the day, which Hickman won.

The Kewpies graduated 10 seniors last year. Devine isn't worried about how his team will perform, he does have most of his starting nine back. But the scrimmage was a good litmus test for Devine to see where his new players are at.

"We had a good team last year, a lot of seniors, but we have to replace them," Devine said. "That's what you do every year."

Devine said it was nice to have the opportunity to see his players go against other schools. It's easier to judge how prepared his team is when he sees it in actual competition rather than practicing against each other.

"That's the great things about what we're doing right here," Devine said. "It gives us a chance to see guys we are always evaluating. Hopefully we can get our best nine guys out there."

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.

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