COLUMBIA — The new turf baseball field at Hickman High School came in handy Friday night. But it wasn't the Kewpies who took advantage of the artificial turf. It was their crosstown rival.
Rock Bridge High School was supposed to host St. Dominic High School. Due to the heavy rain the last two days, the game had to be moved five miles north on Providence Road. Bruins coach Justin Towe joked that he tried to take the visitor's dugout so his team wouldn't have to occupy the Kewpies' spot on the scoreboard.
Despite playing on their rival's field, the Bruins made themselves feel right at home with a 2-0 win over the Crusaders. Junior Chandler Wyatt pitched a complete game in the shutout. He finished with five strikeouts and only gave up three hits.
"Coach always tells us to go as hard as we can and pass it on to the next pitcher, but I guess we really didn't need a next pitcher tonight," Wyatt said with a grin.
This isn't the first shutout Wyatt has thrown. But that doesn't make him any less proud of it.
"Every time it's a special feeling," he said. "The whole team gets into it."
Senior catcher Jacob Schmidt knew before the first pitch that it would be an extraordinary outing for Wyatt.
"Right when we started warming up, I knew it was going to be a good one," Schmidt said. "He locates his spots, and that is what we really need."
Rock Bridge jumped on top early in the bottom of the first. Shortstop Logan Twehouse knocked a single past third base to score right fielder Joe Barbee for the game's first run.
After that, the bats went cold. There were three hits between the two teams for the next five innings.
Towe thought his team was too timid at the plate. The Bruins were looking for fastballs from St. Dominic pitcher Brendan Niggemeier, and they saw plenty of them. But they didn't swing at them.
"We watched a lot of pitches go by," Towe said. "Their pitcher is mainly a fastball guy, and we let too many fastballs over the plate without getting a barrel out there."
Wyatt's place on the mound became more important with each inning. He could feel the pressure building to protect the early lead. He used the pressure to his advantage.
"I don't think the pressure is necessarily bad," Wyatt said. "Sometimes it acts as a catalyst for me and it pushes me to go even harder."
Some of that pressure was relieved by the Rock Bridge bats in the sixth inning.
With one out, center fielder Connor Brumfield smacked a sacrifice fly to left field to drive in second baseman Avery Jennings. The Bruins took a 2-0 lead into the final inning of the game.
Before Wyatt stepped onto the field for the last three outs, Towe found his pitcher in the dugout and told him, "Don't make me come out there and get you. Close it out."
Wyatt let the first batter get on base, but the next three Crusaders went down.
Wyatt played a significant role in the 2013 season as a sophomore, and Towe has come to expect solid performances each time Wyatt takes the mound.
"Wyatt threw a gem," Towe said. "He was painting the corners and hitting his off-speeds, throwing his secondary pitches for strikes. They didn't know what was coming."
Supervising editor is Wade Livingston.