Rock Bridge baseball head coach Justin Towe likes a little bit of mystery.
That’s why he’s keeping a tight lid on his starting pitcher for Tuesday’s sectional matchup with Francis Howell (18-17).
“I know my counterpart. He’s a huge paper reader,” he said.
And he would know, as Towe and longtime Francis Howell coach Tony Perkins have faced each other multiple times over their collective 40-plus years of coaching. The two went head to head in 2014 when the Vikings and Bruins faced off in the Class 5 state championship game, which Rock Bridge won 9-6. There’s been turnover on the rosters since, but the history is certainly alive.
“Even though those guys weren’t there, Coach Perkins was there,” Towe said. “And I’m sure he’s probably relaying a lot of information to kind of get them amped up. They’re going to give us all they have.”
So Towe knows Perkins well, and he knows that any advantage he can give his team over Francis Howell will make a difference.
Whether it’s Spencer Miles or Parker Wright on the mound, two pitchers that Towe named as potential starters, Rock Bridge (28-7) believes it’ll have the advantage. The Bruins have hung their hats on the pitching staff all season, and it will be no different from here on, as each game is potentially their last.
“We’re very fortunate that we do have several guys that I feel really comfortable with putting out there if need be,” Towe said. “What that does is, our starting pitchers could go a complete game, but they don’t have to.”
Miles, a senior, and Wright, a junior, have pitched complete games before as the top two arms on Rock Bridge’s roster. Both have committed to play for Missouri after graduation, but that’s where the similarities end.
“Spencer has a lot of different pitches at his disposal, while Parker’s more of a power pitcher,” Towe said.
Wright might get the nod, as Miles faced Francis Howell in a 6-4 win April 20 in Webb City. Being able to throw a different, but similarly talented, pitcher at the Vikings could sway Towe to go with Wright. And Miles is on shorter rest, having pitched in the district championship game against Hickman on May 15.
But Miles’ performance in April was nothing to scoff at, as he pitched a complete game, allowing four runs on five hits with one walk against the Vikings. Towe said that Miles having a win over Francis Howell already under his belt is “something to consider.”
Whoever takes the mound for the Bruins, third baseman Spencer Nivens knows exactly what to expect.
“We all know they’re going to throw strikes, they’re going to get ground balls, fly balls, so our defense has to be on point,” he said. “As long as we put runs on the board, we’re pretty confident with them on the mound that they’ll get the job done.”
If the Bruins have had a weak point in their record-breaking season, it’s been getting runs on the board. They average 5.9 runs per game, and Towe’s seen the offensive production drop in recent weeks. Although the Vikings don’t have a much higher average, at 6.4 runs per game, one run can make all the difference when each game is now a win-or-go-home situation.
Still, the pitching staff has more of an impact for the Bruins than just getting opposing batters out. When a starter can put up zeros every inning, a few runs are all that are needed to pull out a win.
“I always say pitching and defense travels,” Towe said. “Hitting comes and goes.”
He’s looking for the offensive production to come with him on the Bruins’ Tuesday road trip to Francis Howell.