This story has been updated to reflect the postponement of the Rock Bridge-De Smet game until Friday at 4 p.m.
Spencer Miles has already played a role in one Rock Bridge state title run this year, and he’ll look to keep another run rolling Friday.
After beating Francis Howell in sectionals Tuesday, the Bruins (29-7) earned the right to face De Smet (11-13-1) in the state quarterfinal. That game, originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon, was postponed until Friday at 4 p.m. because of wet field conditions at De Smet.
With Parker Wright throwing a complete game shutout Tuesday against the Vikings, Rock Bridge coach Justin Towe will put his team’s fate in the hands of his other ace, Miles.
“You need two guys to do this because, from districts on, it’s a two-game series,” Towe said. “So if you’ve got two guys like we do, you feel real confident that you have a chance to win.
“Spencer, at times, is a video game. He can throw three or four different pitches any way he wants, and that’s really difficult for high school hitters. And to top it all off, he just keeps coming at you on the mound. He just is very relentless and he doesn’t take no for an answer.”
Miles was a member of the Bruins’ state champion boys basketball team that won the Class 5 title on March 16. Because of the late end to his basketball season, Miles had a late start on his baseball season. He didn’t have much of an offseason to get his baseball legs under him, but Towe said that Miles’ improvement as the season has progressed has been key for the team’s run.
“He’s a guy that’s just gotten better and better and better as the year’s gone on,” Towe said. “He’s caught up real fast, and I know from his pen (on Wednesday), he’s ready to go.”
Miles has been a revelation on the mound as part of Rock Bridge’s one-two punch with Wright, which is why Towe is putting his faith in the senior to get the Bruins to their first state semifinal since winning it all in 2014. And Towe is even more relieved knowing Miles will be on the mound, since his team’s opponent is the surging Spartans.
At this point in the playoffs, Towe said there are two types of teams left: the ones that are so good they can roll through opponents and the ones that are hot at the right time. Towe places DeSmet in the latter category, which he said is the more dangerous one because he doesn’t know what to expect from those teams.
“Everything that’s gone on all year is not really the team (the Spartans) are right now, and the team they are right now is the one that can do damage in a hurry,” Towe said. “I look at them as maybe the hottest team right now, because on paper, they don’t look real intimidating, but paper really doesn’t matter when the game starts.”
Although Miles is expected to give the Bruins a shot to win with his pitching, the Bruins know they cannot rely solely on him to get the job done. Towe says that the players’ performance in the field will be just as important in keeping De Smet off the scoreboard.
Offensively, Towe knows what his lineup will bring to the plate. He named the hitters at the top of the order as those who will be key in putting runs on the board, including table-setter Spencer Nivens. Runs could be at a premium Thursday, but Towe says his hitters just need to keep doing what’s got them averaging just under six runs a game.
“It’s the guys that have been doing it all year. Our first five or six hitters, they’ve been doing it all year,” Towe said. “We’ve been scoring what we need to. We’re a big situational hitting team, so we try to move the runners, play for a mark, and our theory is, if we can keep marking just one time every inning, then we’ve got an opportunity to win.”
Getting to this point in the playoffs is an accomplishment in itself for a program that hadn’t won a district title in four years. Towe said that making it through districts was the goal this year, and now that the Bruins have met that goal, they can start dreaming about a run to the top.
“You can’t dream until you reach your goal,” Towe said. “But we’ve met our goal, and now we’re one step away from a dream.”
Rock Bridge will play at De Smet in the Class 5 state quarterfinal at 4 p.m. Friday in Creve Coeur.
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