JEFFERSON CITY — It’s a play that most likely wouldn’t make game highlights, but in Rock Bridge’s 4-3 extra-inning win Monday over Helias in Jefferson City, it proved to be all the difference.
With the tying run on third and the winning run on second with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, senior catcher Micah Leipard smothered a dropped third strike in the dirt from Erik Darkow and calmly threw to first to end the game.
The play was what the Bruins now expect to be routine for one of their most laid-back players, a guy who could be seen dancing in the on-deck circle to Bon Jovi during Friday’s win over North Kansas City.
“There’s a reason he gets to play next year when high school is over,” Bruins coach Justin Towe said. Leipard’s father said his son will probably choose to attend Northeastern Oklahoma A&M next school year. “As a catcher, there’s a priority on defense, and both of our catchers do a good job.”
Darkow, who played Little League with Leipard, said that having Leipard behind the plate puts him at ease.
“I like all of our catchers, really,” he said of Leipard and Bryce Bond. “I like Micah. He keeps me loose; I keep him loose. He gives me advice, and I give advice to him. We work hand in hand like that.”
Leipard also serves another role on the 9-4 Bruins: butt of the team’s jokes. Because of his slight Southern drawl and large diesel truck, he said he is on the receiving end of light-hearted jabs. Not that Leipard minds the jokes.
“I have some competition in Ben (Martin), but I’m the only one who keeps up with it consistency,” Leipard said about his “country boy” image. “I hunt and fish. I like to get out and play on Friday and Saturday nights. I come back with a muddy truck and maybe a picture of a turkey I shot or a large bass I caught.”
Leipard is also a four-year member of the Future Farmers of America, and said he wants to go to school in Oklahoma in order to play baseball and major in agriculture business. He said FFA has cultivated fond memories.
“It’s great,” he said. “I hang out with my FFA friends all the time. I’ve been in it since freshman year with one of my best friends. We do things like fruit sales, trapshooting, fishing. One time, we played mud volleyball, and afterwards we drove our trucks through the mud.”
His truck, a red Dodge 2500 diesel with semi-stacks instead of traditional exhaust pipes, gets most of the attention from his teammates, who call him “Stacks” and “Big Diesel.” The truck, which his father, Mike Leipard, said was a graduation gift, had stacks installed earlier this year, much to the delight of a group of Bruins players.
“One day, it was rainy and we got out of practice early, and he told us he was going to get his stacks put in,” Darkow said. “We told him to call when he was done so he could show them off. I think it was me, Brandon (Gerau), Jordan (Nietzel) and Jack (Campbell).
“He came down to my cul de sac — we could hear him coming — and had a big grin on his face from ear to ear. He shot black smoke out of those stacks for us.”
Mike Leipard said his son often tows other young drivers out of the snow during the winter, something Micah loves doing. Micah Leipard said he enjoys giving friends rides whenever possible.
“I take the ribbing about it,” he said. “It’s great, I give all those guys rides all the time. I got the truck after my first one got stolen from high school, and I’ve slowly built it up since.”
Leipard has also built a reputation for his abilities at the plate. He said that since around age 12 or 13, he has had 20-10 vision in his left eye, which helps him to pick up the spin of the ball earlier. He also hits rocks with a wiffle ball bat to keep his eye sharp.
“My dad used to get a pan of rocks and I would try and hit them,” he said. “When we moved, we had a gravel driveway. I try to hit the smallest rock I possibly can. It helps me to see the ball and have quicker hands.
“I never liked heavier bats to speed my hands. I always thought they were harder to swing. I always liked the wiffle ball bat.”
Leipard said he deals with the jokes because he knows his teammates are just messing around. Darkow said that such a quality makes him a great teammate.
“He’s a piece of work,” Darkow said. “He takes our jokes in a good way.”