Morale has improved and so has Rock Bridge’s defense.
The secret formula: Stop thinking about it too much and have fun.
Add situational hitting and Marcus Himmelberg’s strong pitching performance, and you get a 11-2 Bruins win against Smith-Cotton on Wednesday at Rock Bridge Field.
Himmelberg pitched seven innings, striking out four, walking one and allowing seven hits as Rock Bridge (13-7) scored four runs on sacrifice flies.
“We had a five-game skid, which was pretty tough because it seemed like something always went wrong,” Rock Bridge’s Taylor Drennan said. “But now we’re back into it. We’re making the plays and hitting the ball. We had four sac flies. Usually you don’t see that many in almost a season. Four in one game is great timely hitting.”
Third baseman Chase Patton committed Rock Bridge’s two errors, but the Bruins didn’t let the situation worsen.
Rock Bridge followed each error with a double play. Catcher Bobby Thrasher caught a fly ball in foul territory and threw out the runner at first base in the first inning, and Patton started a 5-4-3 double play in the fifth inning.
Meanwhile, Himmelberg did a great job of changing speeds and putting the ball in the right spot, getting the Tigers to fly out 11 times.
“I threw strikes,” Himmelberg said. “I’ve been trying to do that all year, and the guys played pretty good defense behind me.”
The Bruins scored at least one run in every inning, opening with three in the first and second innings.
In the first inning, the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead, capitalizing on Smith-Cotton’s defensive woes. The Tigers committed one error and catcher Brent Hodge allowed three passed balls.
Scott Dunwoody and Chase Patton had RBI fielder’s choices. Patton scored on a wild pitch.
“The big key is, did we give up a run in the first inning?” Rock Bridge coach Terry Whitney said. “Usually we’re behind. It’s different to be on top, finally, in the first inning. We put the ball in play and took advantage of their mistakes. People have been taking advantage of ours and in that first inning, we took advantage of a couple of theirs.”
Smith-Cotton’s starter Nick Toalson (5-1) lasted two innings, giving up five hits and six runs. He threw two wild pitches and hit a batter.
Johnny Kruse went 3-for-4 and had an RBI triple off Toalson in the second inning.
“I thought we came out today really sluggish,” Smith-Cotton coach Ross Dey said. “I didn’t think we were mentally ready to play and I think (Rock Bridge) had something to prove to us. We beat them earlier in the year and they didn’t want to lose to us twice. I thought they did a good job of coming out ready to play and I thought we didn’t. That set the tone for the whole game.”
Eight Bruins had at least one RBI, Drennan and Thrasher led the way with two.
“We played pretty good all innings,” Whitney said. “We didn’t let them get back in, we didn’t have a bad inning and I think a lot of that has to do with Marcus throwing strikes. He threw strikes, they hit the ball and we made the plays.”
Himmelberg and Andy Burks added two hits.
“We’ve won two straight and we’re looking really good,” Himmelberg said. “So I’m hoping we can carry this into districts.”