Center fielder Blake Tekotte has been Hickman’s most consistent performer during a season that has had its ups and downs.
The Kewpies won their first three games before going into a slump that dropped them to 6-6. Hickman recovered this week, though, winning its past two games to improve to 8-6.
Hickman has had streaky hitting all season. The Kewpies lost 10-0 at home to Francis Howell on Monday but beat Mexico on Tuesday and Southern Boone on Wednesday.
“I think that consistency is what we really need to work on,” Tekotte said. “One day we can come out and just hammer the ball and the next day we get one hit or two hits.”
Tekotte, a junior, is hitting .594 with five home runs. He has a hit in every game except one.
Hickman will need to continue this week’s hot hitting to win this weekend’s Columbia Tournament. Hickman’s first game is against Owensville at 4:30 p.m. today at Hickman Field.
Tekotte balances baseball, football
Tekotte is picking up where he left off with the Kewpies’ football team in November.
As a quarterback and punter, Tekotte led Hickman to the Class 6 semifinals, where the Kewpies lost 17-7 to eventual state champion Blue Springs.
Tekotte said little pressure comes with being a two-sport star.
“I just like to compete,” Tekotte said. “Competition is what keeps me going. Playing two sports keeps me active and lets me compete.”
Despite his success on the football field, Tekotte said he considers himself primarily a baseball player.
“Whatever’s in season, that’s what I adapt to,” he said. “Probably the road that I’ll go down is baseball right now. I’ll just see what my options are in the summer and see what they are for football too, see how things play out.”
Hickman coach Kent Fewell said he has no problem sharing Tekotte with the football team.
“I think he’s a baseball man,” Fewell said. “He’s got a great future in baseball. He works hard in football and works hard in baseball but he’s going to be (in NCAA) Division I baseball.”
Gregg Nesbitt, Hickman’s football coach, said he encourages athletes to play more than one sport.
“I’m kind of an old-school guy,” Nesbitt said. “I played three sports in high school and I like to see kids stay as active as they can.”
Nesbitt also said Tekotte might have the opportunity to play baseball and football in college if he chooses to be a punter.
Tekotte credits his baseball success this season to his participation in a summer league with the Midwest Prospects in St. Louis.
“That level of play was pretty high,” Tekotte said. “I think it helped me prepare for this season. I was playing with a lot of Division I-caliber players and it opens your eyes on what you’ve got to have to play at the next level.”
Tekotte also said that he tries to throw a football when he gets a chance during baseball season and likes to hit in the batting cages during football season.
Colleges interested in Tekotte’s baseball skills have begun to send him letters.
“Summer made me realize that I have to work harder because there’s a guy right next to you that’s even better so you’ve got to keep that work ethic going,” he said.
Tekotte’s defense has noticeably improved this season as well. In one highlight, he used his quarterback’s arm to throw out Parkway Central’s Joel Kriss at the plate April 17.
“In football, since we changed up our offense a little bit, throwing the football a lot has increased my arm strength,” Tekotte said. “I can tell now that my arm is a lot stronger from center field.”
A strong performance this weekend could turn Hickman’s season around. The eight-team double-elimination tournament runs today and Saturday at Hickman and Rock Bridge.
“We won (the tournament) last year and started to get on track about this time,” catcher Justin Jackson said. “We’ve got a tough bracket if we can get past the first round.”
Hickman has struggled recently to come back in games after falling behind early.
“Whenever we get down early in the game, some of us just put our heads down and don’t have that fight, but I think that Jefferson City game (April 19) was pretty pivotal and gave us a lot of confidence going into a tough week,” Tekotte said.
Rock Bridge plays its first game at 4:30 p.m. today at home against St. Dominic. The championship game is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Rock Bridge.