Hickman's heads-up player

Kemble’s alert play kept game from ending for Hickman in final inning
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:05 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — When a hitter who represents the final out of the game is faced with a two-strike count, his mind-set isn’t always the most stable.

Countless things can start to race through his head. Will the pitch be a fastball or curveball, inside or outside, ball or strike?

When the hitter proceeds to strike out, his mind-set often changes to one of frustration, questioning what could have or should have been.

Hickman shortstop Colin Kemble never lost focus, though, when faced with this situation and runners on second and third in Hickman’s 4-2 loss to the Jefferson City Jays (10-3) on Monday at Vivion Field.

Kemble saw that the pitch he swung at and missed hit the dirt and he hustled down the first-base line to beat the throw from Jefferson City catcher Cory Stuefer, turning the potential final out of the game into a run-scoring play. It also allowed Justin Jones to score Hickman’s second run of the game.

Give the credit, though, to the shortstop’s father, Nile Kemble.

“My dad is the one who has always told me to remember to stay focused and hustle all the time, because you never know who is going to be watching,” Colin Kemble said.

Among those watching Monday was Hickman coach Dave Wilson, whose team fell to 4-6.

“That’s something a coach always loves to see,” Wilson said of Kemble’s game-extending play. “Colin could have easily put his head down and walked away, but that’s not the type of player he is. He’s a competitor.”

Colin Kemble learned at a young age during countless games of catch with his father, a former outfielder, in his backyard.

“We would always be back there throwing around and fielding grounders,” Colin Kemble said. “My dad would always make sure I was focusing on the fundamentals, though.”

Colin Kemble’s love for throwing and fielding a baseball in his backyard soon evolved into a love for the game itself.

“Baseball is where my heart is,” Colin Kemble said of what he calls “the ultimate team sport.” “I just love the intensity of the game and the trust you have to have in your teammates in order to succeed. In other sports, you can have a guy like Dwyane Wade score 40 or 50 (points) every night, and the team is going to win. In baseball, you can’t just rely on one guy to win. It has to be a team effort.”

It’s not surprising, then, that Colin Kemble didn’t ask too many questions last year when Wilson told him he was going to be changing positions from outfield to shortstop on a bus ride home from St. Louis.

Instead, Colin Kemble worked diligently on his defense throughout this past summer, especially with teammates Eric Johanning and Greg Kanuckel.

“I was a little surprised at first, but all I wanted to do was play,” Colin Kemble said of the position change. “I was just thinking that I wanted to do what was best for the team.”

Sounds like the perfect mind-set for a hitter facing two strikes with the game on the line.

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