COLUMBIA — Left pant leg caked in dirt from a slide into third base in the previous half inning, Logan Twehous was about to get a lot dirtier.
The Rock Bridge High School pitcher peered for the signal from catcher Eric Kuse. He lifted that leg one more time and fired a pitch past Jefferson City’s Rylie Klosterman to complete a two-hit shutout in the Class 5 District 9 championship Wednesday on his home field.
Then he ran into Kuse’s arms and quickly became the base of a raucous dogpile between the pitcher’s mound and home plate.
Rock Bridge is going back to the state tournament thanks to a 5-0 win and monster performance from Twehous. The junior, who’s also the quarterback of the football team, struck out nine Jays — five looking — and faced just three batters more than the minimum. He also tripled in the top of the seventh inning, which gave him an accelerated heart rate and another insurance run heading into the final frame.
“I was tired,” Twehous said of running 270 feet for his opposite-field triple. “I was to second and I saw my coach waving me and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! Are you serious, Coach?’”
The slide into third earned Twehous a nice splattering of brown on his gray pants. He soon returned the favor to his coach. After the Bruins won and exchanged handshakes with the Jays, Justin Towe spoke to his victorious team. As Towe addressed the players, Twehous and right fielder Kyle Teter dumped a Powerade bucket on him.
“I have no idea, but it was really cold,” Towe said when asked the flavor of the liquid. Twehous later confirmed it was merely water.
The mood was appropriately festive. As Towe spoke to the media, speakers blared Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” a song on most wedding disc jockeys' default playlists.
Rock Bridge (20-12) secured its fifth consecutive 20-win season and will play at Rolla in the first round of the 16-team state tournament Tuesday.
“We have one goal every year, and that’s to win district championship,” Towe said. “We don’t talk about anything else. … We put that ceiling up there, and we expect them to get it.”
It wasn’t the most straightforward path for the Bruins.
Rock Bridge allowed eight runs in the top of the first inning in the semifinal game against Helias on Monday. It rallied back to win that one and had its best active pitcher available to take down Jefferson City (22-7).
Twehous asked for the ball as soon as his team advanced to the title game. Wednesday he ate Arris Pizza for lunch, the same meal he had last time he pitched.
In the bottom of the first inning — Jefferson City was considered the home team despite the tournament taking place at Rock Bridge — the Jays put runners on first and third with one out when a would-be inning-ending double play went through the first baseman’s glove. But Twehous struck out the Jays’ Nos. 4 and 5 batters to escape trouble.
“The pitcher was just hitting his spots when he needed to get us out,” said Jays senior Gabe Marcantonio, who struck out to end that inning. “Mixing it up pretty well. He was attacking us.”
Twehous continually hit the outside corner with his fastball and located his curveball and changeup. He said he threw the changeup maybe four times all game, but three resulted in strikeouts.
“In high school, if you’ve got pitchers that can throw secondary pitches for strikes, it’s really tough on hitters,” Towe said.
Throughout most of the humid evening, Twehous remained relaxed. But after striking out first baseman Hayden Strobel to end the sixth inning, he let out a big fist pump as he walked off the mound.
“That sixth inning was huge,” Twehous said. “They had the top of their order up, and the fact that we were able to get them 1-2-3 was huge. And we got another mark there in the seventh, and I think that kind of put them away for good.”
Twehous went 2-for-4 at the plate and also reached on an error as part of a two-run fourth inning. Senior third baseman Michael Buxton went 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs, belting run-scoring hits against just-inserted pitchers in the fourth and sixth innings.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.