The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Immeasurable moments

[dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″ class=”A”]B[/dropcap]aseball is one of the few sports where there is no time.  No clock, no timer –  just innings and outs. In the absence of measured time, specific moments take on a greater meaning. With each out, an inning dissipates into history; for one team, a chance to score is lost, but for the other, victory is one step closer.  Without seconds and minutes disappearing from the clock, the team must capitalize on every moment, to carpe diem.  As the outs accumulate and the innings expire, opportunities perish.
Lead by coaches Justin Towe, Jeff Bazat and Kelly Fick, the RBHS baseball team experienced an unparalleled altitude of passion, energy and intensity that lead to the stunning success of the 2014 season. The Bruins were without proven talent and a star player, attributes of powerhouse teams across Missouri. Before the season began, the Bruins were ranked third in Missouri in the preseason rankings.
On paper we may not have been the best,” said junior Taten Lyngstad, then a sophomore outfielder. “But we had guys who were clutch: guys who could step up, make the tough plays and get the big hits when the team needed it the most.”
However, the team did have what other teams missed: experience, energy and an abundance of “clutchness.”  Players like junior pitcher and shortstop Logan Twehous, assisted by senior right fielder Kyle Teter, spearheaded the team through the playoffs. Both of these players, accompanied by their teammates, experienced stellar regular seasons, but their energy, dedication and tenacity propelled the team to postseason success.
Before the season began, the potential for the team was immense, but the inexperienced talent was a handicap that the Bruins would have to overcome.
“We were really young and we had a lot of guys that didn’t have a whole lot of experience,” Coach Towe said about his 2014 team.  “Potential-wise I knew that we had a really high ceiling, I just wasn’t sure when [we would reach it].”
When the playoffs started, the Bruins entered the District 9 tournament as the second seed, possessing an average, slightly disappointing regular season record with 16 wins and 14 losses (16-14).
During this span of 30 games, time pranced away, like a gazelle effortlessly flowing across the savanna.  Every day, every practice represented an acre of opportunity; a block of time that allowed for individual players, and the collective team to improve.  It was one loss in particular that sounded a wake up call to inspire the team.
A 13-2 blowout loss against Holt near the end of the regular season motivated the team.
“After that loss, our team transformed,” junior Avery Jennings, then a sophomore second baseman said. “I think we realized we only [had] a couple weeks left of the season and we needed to give it all we had.”
Following the defeat, practices and games were sharp and intense, a change powered by senior leadership and the coaches’ guidance. The loss, which came eight games before the district tournament, doubled as a wakeup call as well as an explosion of motivation.  Although it wasn’t an ideal transition, the defeat drove the Bruins into their first-round game against the Camdenton Lakers, resulting in an 8-4 Bruin victory.
The next game, the semifinal match against Helias, began as a catastrophe.
“The first inning was a disaster,” junior catcher Eric Kuse said.  “There were so many mistakes and errors both mentally and physically, it just wasn’t us.”
When the dust settled, the Bruins found themselves facing an eight-run deficit after the first inning.  At this point, the Bruins were facing an enormous deficit, but had lots of time to climb it.  The mountain was the eight-run deficit.  The time was the seven innings, 21 outs that the Bruin hitters could use to slowly climb the mountain.
However, the Bruin hitters wouldn’t need 21 outs to successfully climb the mountain.  They would only need three.
The instant the inning ended, the RBHS players descended the stairs into the dugout, and shift began.  Coach Towe greeted his players with an inspiring speech to motivate them before it was their turn to hit.
“[Coach Towe] just told us that we could either give up or we could put together the best comeback in Rock Bridge baseball history,” Kuse recalled. “And after Teter hit his three-run homerun in the bottom half of the inning, we kind of started to believe.”
Teter’s home run, however, was just the beginning. It would take a team effort to claw back into the game.
“[Cole] Evans hit one of the farthest home runs I’ve ever seen,” sophomore infielder Avery Jennings said.  “Everyone just started to hit, and we all started to believe.  The parents and coaches were encouraging us every step of the way.”
At the end of the first inning, the Bruins held a 9-8 lead.
The slim one-run advantage was all that was needed, as RBHS would go on to win 12-11.  Coach Towe defined this moment as a turning point in the season.
“[We] erased an eight run deficit that probably should’ve buried our team,” Towe said. “We stayed focused and were able to move on from there. That showed those guys that they can really do this.”
The comeback sprung the Bruins into the District Championship game against their rival Jefferson City Jays.
“Jefferson City is always good competition so we knew we would have to play our best,” Twehous said.
The Bruins would do just that.  Backed by Twehous’ lights-out performance, as well as senior third baseman Michael Buxton’s two RBI (runs batted in) performance, the Bruins would win 5-0.
“Michael didn’t have the best season offensively, but he had two huge hits that game which helped us win,” Kuse said. Buxton was actually a senior who got his starting job taken away mid way through the season. Because of this, he didn’t get lots of playing time. “He worked his butt off in practice and became one of the key pieces in our championship.”
For the fifth time in six years, the Bruins were district champions.
Twehous’ superb outing and Buxton’s hits in the championship game lead to the Bruin victory.  The journey for Twehous, Buxton and the whole team, however, had just begun.  Coming off the district championship victory, the Bruins’ next step was sectionals against the Rolla Bulldogs.
“They made a lot of errors that game and we just took advantage,” Widhalm said.  “We got hits when we needed them and had good defense and good pitching.”
The Bruins would win easily, by a score of 9-1.  The next team the Bruins faced were the fourth ranked, 25-4, Nixa Eagles.  Twehous started the game on the mound. RBHS took a 5-0 lead into the sixth inning, but a double, a sacrifice fly and an error trimmed the formerly comfortable Bruin lead to a dangerous 5-4 advantage.
Three immeasurable moments changed mounded the pressure of time solidly on the shoulders of the Eagles. This pressure, however, was offset by two phenomena vital to sport;  momentum and confidence, unseen and unheard, but unquestionably felt, had become key factors in the game. As the Eagles worked to gain a lead with the time granted by three outs, the Bruins worked to end the inning as quickly as it had started.
Eventually, Bernskoetter, who came in relief for Twehous, would pitch himself out of the jam and pitch the Bruins to victory. The victory propelled the Bruins to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.
“Ryan was good for us all season and he did his job against Nixa,” Twehous said.  “It was just pure excitement since we were going to the Final Four, but we knew we weren’t done yet.”
At that point in the season, Towe felt that his team had matured greatly and prepared well for the opportunity ahead of them.
“When you have a group that can carry out a game plan well, you’ve got a really good shot,” Towe said. “When it comes to those games it really just comes down to who can let the game slow down the quickest, relax the quickest and execute.”

“When you have a group that can carry out a gameplan well, you’ve got a really good shot,” Towe said. “When it comes to those games it really just comes down to who can let the game slow down the quickest, relax the quickest and execute.”

The Bruins met the top-ranked preseason team, the Blue Springs South Jaguars, in the semifinals of the Final Four. Towe described them as the biggest challenge going into championship bracket.
“We had to play what I felt was the best team in the Final Four,” Towe said. “We were going to see their number one pitcher, who was going to Nebraska. He was about a 6’4, 6’5 right hander who threw really hard, so that was my biggest worry.”
The Bruins had faced Blue Springs South twice already in the regular season and defeated them once.  Despite this, the Bruins had not faced the hard-throwing Jaguars’ pitcher.
Twehous started on the mound for the Bruins, and his first inning was his hardest.  After an error and a single, the Bruin pitcher was in a difficult position with runners on second and third and the Jaguars’ most powerful hitters coming to the plate.
“I was pretty nervous because he was in such a tough spot,” sophomore infielder Curtis Holliday said. “But [Twehous] got the job done.”
Deadlocked at with no score leading into the fourth inning, the game had been a pitching duel.  Each recorded out represented a dissipated opportunity a chunk of time that transformed into an LED light on the scoreboard at T.R. Hughes Ballpark.  However, the Bruins would take advantage of their chance in the top half of the fourth inning.
With the Jaguars’ fireballer still on the mound, the Bruins lead off the inning with Widhalm reaching first via error.  The junior then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and again to third on a choppy infield single. Without the ball leaving the infield, the Bruins had orchestrated a perfect run-scoring moment. On a 1-1 count, senior Michael Buxton dropped a bunt to perfectly execute a suicide squeeze play that scored Widhalm.
“We saw the sign from the dugout and we were just ready to explode,” Jennings said.  “And when Buxton got the bunt down perfectly and Matt scored, we went crazy.”
The Bruins had gained a 1-0 lead and looked to add to it.  In the fifth inning, junior outfielder Connor Brumfield doubled, then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt.  He would score on an infield single by senior Kyle Teter.
“We had so many guys that played so well during the playoffs, I think Connie’s performance kind of went unnoticed,” Jennings said. “But he played great defense and had some big hits during the playoffs.”
The 2-0 advantage was all the support Twehous would need to solidify the win.  The junior hurler had performed solidly during the regular season as a pitcher and a shortstop, but he became untouchable during the playoff run.
“[Twehous] is just clutch.  He was just flat out dealing during the playoffs.” Kuse, who caught every one of Twehous’ outings, said. “Every game he pitched was a gem.”
In a game where the talent of the opposing team greatly outmatched the Bruins, it was the clutch performances that carried the Bruins through every stage of the playoffs, and to the state championship game.
“Before the game, all the conversation was about their players and how hard their pitcher could throw and what college their players were going to,” Holliday said.  “Logan just showed up and slammed the door in their faces.”
In the intense match between the Bruins and the Jaguars, both teams received seven innings, 21 outs to score.  Unlike basketball, football or soccer, there is no possession.  It is impossible to control how many moments the opposition’s offense has; it is only possible to control the result of those moments. In the semifinal game, the Bruins minimized the success of their opponents and did just enough to be successful, executing perfectly throughout the game in order to be victorious.
With the win over Blue Springs South, the Bruins would go on to compete for the state title.
In the final game of the season, the RBHS faced powerhouse, defending state champion Francis Howell.  But like the game against the Jaguars, the Bruins pitcher had trouble in the first inning.  Unlike Twehous, junior Chandler Wyatt was unable to squirm out of the situation.
“Chandler struggled in the home half of the first, but Bernie was able to pick him up and provide us with an outstanding relief effort that helped us have control of the game,” Kuse said.  “I remember catching and Bernie just hitting spot after spot, frustrating their hitters.  And when they did put the ball in play, our defense was able to make the plays that they needed to make.”
While Bernskoetter pitched, the offense took advantage of each moment granted and never faltered.
“Twehous, Buxton and Brumfield all had some big hits and I’m pretty sure I had a sweet double, too,” Widhalm said about the Bruin offense.  The offensive explosion lead to a 9-2 lead going into the seventh inning.
But the Vikings mounted a rally in the final inning.  Sophomore Avery Jennings had come in to shut the door for the Bruins, but he ran into some trouble.
“Avery gave up one of the longest home runs that I’ve ever seen while playing baseball,” Kuse said.  “But he was able to shake it off and come right back and challenge the Francis Howell hitters.”
The towering three-run home run cut the Bruin lead to three.  Regardless, Jennings would be able to finish the job.  Once the final out was recorded, sheer chaos ensued.
“I thought it was going to land in the gap and at the last second I kind of saw Connor race over and slide and make the catch,” Kuse said.  “It was one of the greatest highs anyone can ever experience.“
The players weren’t the only ones who erupted in celebration.
“It was kind of hard to believe because even as a coach you’re so locked in with the task at hand you don’t even let yourself sit down and think about it,” Towe said. “The night before the state championship game it was kind of hard to go to sleep, and I just kind of had a feeling that it was our time, and it was a team of destiny at that point.”
Towe was right. After a long road riddled with obstacles, they had made it. The Bruins were state champions.
“We had a really good group of guys that just played for each other, there were no hidden agendas and they would just leave it all out on the field,” Towe said about his team.  “When everyone’s pulling the same rope in the same direction the skies the limit and in the end they just came together as a group at the right time and just got after it.”
By Ji-Ho Lee
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  • L

    Lauren HofmannApr 19, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I really like the featured image for this article, it’s very cool!

  • C

    Cam FullerApr 16, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Really amazing article great work! Lets hope they can get back to state this year

  • S

    SkipApr 14, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Thank you so much for this article . It was truly a remarkable journey for players, coaches, parents, and fans of this State Championship Team.