By the time Hickman finally sent its ninth batter to the plate, in the bottom of the third inning, Jefferson City had scored nine times.
“That’s the worst thing that can happen in a district game, to get behind early like that,” Hickman coach Kent Fewell said. “The momentum switches to them.”
The momentum never left the Jays’ dugout Wednesday. Those nine runs were more than enough for Jefferson City pitcher Cody Higgins, who had a complete-game effort in the Jays’ 9-3 win in the semifinals of the Class 4 District 10 Tournament at Hickman.
Jefferson City, the No. 4 seed, chased Hickman starter Kyle Smith with three two-run home runs in the first two innings from Clay Hutchison, Lucas Karr and J.C. Ramatowski to advance to today’s final against Helias.
“The home run ball has been our problem all year,” Fewell said. “We’ve given up a lot of them, and it just happened today. They hit them in the right spots, where the wind’s swishing out from center and right.”
The quick start was exactly what Jefferson City coach Bob Coons was looking for. The top-seeded Kewpies had defeated the Jays twice.
“We took the momentum early with the home runs,” Coons said. “Hickman battled, I give them a lot of credit. I never felt confident until that final out. I was worried the whole time.”
Hickman scored once in the fourth on Blake Tekotte’s RBI single, then added two more in the fifth. Tyler Jones’ sacrifice fly scored Matt Schwartz and Smith’s bloop single scored Ryan Nesbitt, but the Kewpies couldn’t get any closer.
“We still had a chance to get back, but those first two innings got us almost just too far down,” Fewell said. “It’s tough. We tried to battle back, had a couple of chances but just didn’t do it.”
Higgins kept the Kewpies from breaking open a big inning. He hit three batters and walked one, but allowed only three hits and got the big outs when necessary.
“He’s not a strikeout guy; he’s a two-seam fastball and sinkerball pitcher,” Coons said. “He gets groundball outs and he got a lot of those today.”
Hickman finished 12-7.
“It’s disappointing because if you’re seeded No. 1, you’ve probably played the best during the year, but we just didn’t do it today,” Fewell said.
The Jays (14-12), who defeated Camdenton 8-4 in their district opener, will play Helias in the title game at 5 p.m. today at Hickman.
“We’ve got to put together a performance tomorrow like we did today,” Coons said. “This win’s nice, but we’ve got to get ready for tomorrow.”