The Hickman baseball team’s five graduating seniors took a knee in left field to listen to their coach after their 13-4 loss to Fort Zumwalt South in Class 4 sectionals Thursday at Hickman.
Casey McIntosh, Dillan Henke, Roderick Williams, Jeff Johanningmeier, and Jonathan Haas listened intently to coach Dave Wilson, only breaking eye contact to wipe their face of either sweat or tears.
“I just told them I cared about them,” Wilson said. “They taught me a lot this year. Going into a season where their aren’t a lot of expectations they never quit. They supported the young guys. They got better as players. I learned to never give in no matter what because those guys are quality people.”
The coach stood and hugged each one like a father would hug a son. The underclassman followed in their coach’s footsteps as they said goodbye to their teammates.
Members of Hickman’s 2005 state championship team looked on from the bleachers.
“It feels like a family atmosphere,” said Wilson seeing his former players. “That’s the way it should be.”
This year’s Kewpies had lost 17 players from last year’s championship team. Hickman struggled early in the season but managed to win districts May 18 against Helias 10-2 in Jefferson City.
“The team has really matured,” former pitcher Zach Heath said. “We came out to support them.”
Hickman (13-11) gave McIntosh, the starting pitcher, an early 1-0 lead, but a pair of failed pickoff moves and a fielding error by shortstop Colin Kemble allowed the Bulldogs (21-6) to move ahead 2-1 in the third inning.
McIntosh pitched five complete innings before moving to first. Jeff Johanningmeier replaced him and Greg Kanuckle finished the game.
The turning point came on a Bulldogs grand slam in the sixth to increase the lead to 11-4. The Kewpies allowed five runs in the inning.
Hickman was unable to answer.
Although the season may be over for Hickman and those five seniors, Wilson looks forward to seeing his graduating players again soon.
“We’ll see all these guys out here supporting our young men,” Wilson said. “That’s why Hickman’s a great school.”