Rock Bridge’s Johnny Kruse wasn’t about to waste a second chance against Hickman pitcher Kyle Smith.
An inning after doubling off the left-center field wall, Kruse hit a two-run home run to give the Bruins a thrilling 7-6 win against the Kewpies on Thursday at Rock Bridge Stadium.
The eighth-inning home run, also to left–center, ended a game that lasted about three hours. It was Rock Bridge’s second extra-inning game in three days.
Chase Patton hit a solo home run in the ninth inning to beat Kirksville 6-5 on Tuesday.
“I knew I burned the outfield; I knew I got it good, but I felt a little sting,” Kruse said. “I knew I didn’t get it right there on the sweet spot.
“The next one felt pretty good. I was just waiting for that fastball. I knew I got it pretty good. I was just hoping I didn’t hit it to the 408 sign.”
Kruse’s home run came on a 2-2 count with one out and Collin Hoeferlin on first base.
The Bruins (4-1) trailed 5-4 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, but after Kruse led off with a double, there was a glimmer of hope.
Hickman (4-3) seemed to dash that hope when second baseman Andrew Mueller caught Ryan Concannon’s line drive and tossed it to shortstop Tyler Jones for a double play.
“That was huge,” Hickman’s Chad Hatcher said. “After that double play everybody was pumped up, but they kept poking away and doing what they needed to do with two outs.”
Rock Bridge’s Scott Dunwoody was first to bat after the double play. He singled and advanced to second after Patton’s ground ball got past Jones at short.
Dunwoody scored to tie when Taylor Drennan’s hard-hit single hopped over Mueller at second.
“We had to play a one-run game,” Hickman coach
Kent Fewell said. “You’re the visitors. You don’t have the hammer. You’re playing in somebody else’s park. It’s a one-run ballgame. It’s tough.”
Trailing 4-3 going into the seventh inning, Hickman’s Smith singled and scored on Blake Tekotte’s double. Tekotte advanced to third on Justin Jackson’s sacrifice fly and scored on Eric Schultz’s sacrifice fly.
Jim McNeil gave the Kewpies a 6-5 lead in the eighth, running for Nick Steponovich, who reached on an error.
“It’d be all right with me if we got out ahead every once in a while,” Rock Bridge coach Terry Whitney said. “I thought we just competed well. We had two or three chances that we could have quit and not played anymore, but we kept battling back. I think that has a lot to do with the seniors.”
Concannon pitched the final two innings and earned the win. Smith suffered the loss.
“When we get in that situation it’s hands down Kyle,” Hatcher said. “He didn’t walk anybody. He threw strikes. That’s all you can ask from him. They hit the ball. He made them beat him. We didn’t beat ourselves, we made them beat us and that’s what they did.”
With the aid of strong wind, Jones opened the game with a home run on the third pitch he saw from Bruins pitcher Andy Burks. The Kewpies added runs in the third and fifth innings, but they left seven runners stranded through six innings.
“We just left too many men on base early in the game,” Fewell said. “We should have had eight or nine or 10 runs. That came back to haunt us right there.”
Burks pitched six innings, striking out seven and walking two. Burks also tripled and scored in Rock Bridge’s two-run second inning.
Kruse batted 4-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and two stolen bases.
“I thought we had it won twice and they probably thought they had it won once,” Fewell said. “Both teams battled hard, but they had the hammer last. You’ve got to give them credit for battling back. Our kids battled back too.”