Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
Nothing went easy Monday for the Jefferson City Jays.
The first pitch of the game grazed a Hickman batter, the last was a sharply hit line drive with the bases loaded, and in between, 12 more Kewpies reached base — a sharp contrast to the Jays’ last win, a perfect game thrown by Jacob Weirich.
But the Jays managed to hang on, defeating Hickman 4-2 at Vivion Field.
“We had a lot of things kind of going against us,” Jays coach Brian Ash said, adding it was “windy, a little colder than they’ve been playing the last couple of weeks, and then obviously coming off the high of the Helias victory. Our energy wasn’t quite there like it should’ve been.”
Sophomore Hayden Hirschvogel made a leaping grab to keep the bases-loaded drive from landing and likely tying the game. Hirschvogel, who entered the game during a sixth-inning lineup shuffle, had just caught a pop fly in no-man’s land to record the inning’s second out.
“Hayden’s very capable,” Ash said. “I wasn’t shocked that he made those two plays.”
The Kewpies struck first, bringing around the hit batter on an error, a wild pitch and an RBI single by pitcher Cody Polton.
The teams stood at 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when the Jays’ pitcher helped himself as well. Senior Travis Hennessy pulled a two-out single to left field, moved over on a hit-by-pitch and scored when Hickman’s right fielder dropped a routine popup.
By then, Hennessy had settled in on the mound. He retired 11-of-12 during one midgame stretch and never allowed more than one hit in an inning.
The Jays repaid him with a lead in the fifth. Ripken Dodson reached on an infield single, stole second and put the Jays ahead when Bret Jaegers eeked a grounder down the fair side of the third-base line — right in front of Ash, who was coaching third.
“As soon as it took that first hop, I knew it was going to be over the bag, because it just hit right on the edge of the grass,” Ash said. “… I knew the third baseman, he was playing off, so I knew it was going to be down the line and we were going score a run. That was a big at-bat by Bret.”
Adam Grunden then cranked a double to left center to trade places with Jaegers at second and put Jefferson City up 3-1.
The Kewpies didn’t give up, however. Polton hit a full-count double to begin the next inning and scored on a sacrifice fly after moving to third on a failed pickoff attempt. Hickman prolonged the inning by drawing two walks, and though the Kewpies failed to score another run, it was enough to force Hennessy off the mound.
Hennessy, an all-state pitcher last season, has been slowed in the beginning of the year by a shoulder injury.
“With this weather, I was kind of reluctant” to start him, Ash said. “He responds better in warm weather like most people do. Coming off a little bit of a shoulder injury, it’s very important that we watch pitch counts. I was watching him, and he was effortless. At no point was he out there laboring or struggling.”
Jaegers took over and coaxed a strikeout to stop the damage, and the Jays regained their two-run lead with two singles, a walk and a bases-loaded beanball. Jefferson City did strand the bases loaded, however, when Hickman’s Polton made a highlight-reel-worthy, back-handed scoop with his glove to force a runner out at home before recording a strikeout and popout.
The Kewpies loaded the bases with a single sandwiched by two errors in the seventh, but Hirschvogel’s snag stopped Hickman.
Jefferson City (10-7) returns to action Wednesday at Rolla.