At the end of Tuesday’s practice, Rock Bridge coach Justin Towe was upset with the batting practice effort of his 5-0 Bruins. He admonished them for not taking quality swings in the batting cage as if they were struggling to score runs.
Fact is, the Bruins have topped the 10-run mark in four of their five wins this season.
However, this was his point: Don’t throw away chances to get better, and never be satisfied.
With a full weekend slate coming up, including today’s game with rival and district opponent Hickman, and a tournament in Springfield with games against Blue Springs South, Kickapoo, Carthage, and possibly another game depending on how things in Springfield play out, Towe said that his team can’t afford to throw away chances to improve after winning games ugly, as Towe described it.
“There’s a reason why we’re ugly,” Towe said. “We’ve got to step it up, and that starts on the practice field. I say all the time, ‘Are you donating days? Are you just giving them away?’ I have a little higher standard for them sometimes. I want them to get more out of things than sometimes a high school kid does.”
Senior catcher Bryce Bond stressed the importance of the Bruins improving their offensive output, saying that the team had yet to face elite pitching this season.
“We’re trying to get some guys their swing back and get ready for some good competition,” Bond said. “We need to get better to the point where we can hit against elite pitchers.”
Bond also stressed the importance of the team improving on its overall game, saying that the defense hasn’t been what the Bruins had hoped for. He also said that the pitching in Monday’s win over Kirksville left much to be desired. Senior shortstop and closer Jordan Nietzel agreed.
“I think pretty much everything we can improve on,” Nietzel said. “Fielding, we’ve made a lot of errors. Pitching, it’s been OK.”
That Rock Bridge isn’t where it wants want to be with its overall game was a cause for concern heading
into a weekend with five potentially challenging games. Towe told the team that 3-2 this weekend wouldn’t necessarily be a negative, but that the team should shoot for more.
“We could very easily, if things don’t go well, be 5-5 come Sunday morning if we don’t play better,” he said. “3-2 probably isn’t bad, but is that really what you’re shooting for? You’re going to shoot for as many as you can get and I don’t know if we’re giving ourselves a chance for that right now.”
With this stretch coming up, Rock Bridge can’t afford to hit a skid. Before the month is out, it will have played district opponents Jefferson City, Hickman and Helias, with a potential matchup with Smith-Cotton in Springfield. Nietzel said getting a high seed is important to the Bruins’ chances of winning the district, which also includes Camdenton.
“You get to save your arms for pitching, which is a huge advantage,” Nietzel said. “So we have to come out ready to play every district game, every game.”
Nietzel was quick to downplay the game against Hickman, saying that it was nothing more than another district game. Towe said that he preaches that philosophy when it comes to games against the Kewpies.
“Like I said at our parent meeting, I’m not going to place a big emphasis on that game,” he said. “Every high school has a rival school. But we are trying to get to the point where it’s just another game, and you have to approach that game just like you approached the other five.”
Bond said that playing Hickman provides little in the way of extra motivation, but added that there was a greater motivating factor to beating Hickman and their other conference foes this season.
“I think the biggest motivation for me and all the other guys is we haven’t won one (a district title) since 1984,” he said. “That many years is reason enough with the talent pool and the seniors we have here at Rock Bridge.”
Regardless of practice time and motivating factors, Towe said there is one sure way for his team to continue to improve and become the caliber of team he wants: Playing more games. The Bruins have played only five games this season, a mark many teams eclipsed more than a week before.
“The more we get to play, the more we’re going to get better and better,” Towe said. “If we were as good as I thought we could be right now, we’d be more worried because I’d be more worried about the tailing-off effect. Now, we have room to improve in every aspect.”