COLUMBIA — The Smith-Cotton baseball team jumped out to an early lead and held Hickman scoreless for the first three innings of a first-round game in the Class 5, District 9 tournament on Friday at Rock Bridge High School, but the Kewpies broke through eventually and came away with an 8-1 win.
Smith-Cotton finishes its season 17-7, a nine-game improvement over last year’s record.
“My hat’s off to the senior class,” said Smith-Cotton coach Jud Kindle. “They were a fantastic senior class to have. We’ve made great strides this year, and hopefully we can make even bigger strides next year.”
Smith-Cotton scored a run in the first inning to take the lead. Steven Bradbury singled and when Nick Hagedorn bunted to try to sacrifice Bradbury over, the throw from Hickman catcher Colby Fitch sailed into right field. Dom Zerilli followed with a fly ball to left, deep enough to score Bradbury from third.
For several innings, Tiger starter Dalton Zaremba made that lead hold up. In the first inning, Hickman’s Tyler Kramer led off with a bloop single but Zaremba retired the next 10 batters in a row.
“I thought on the mound, Dalton gave us a great outing,” Kindle said. “Defensively we played extremely solid. Dakota Brown made some great plays at third base. (Luke Archibeque) was stellar at shortstop like he always is. It just so happened that they made some adjustments in the fifth, and we couldn’t make the adjustments on (Hickman starter Daniel) Foley that we wanted to make.”
That string was capped off with Carter Nicoli leading off the fourth inning with a sharply hit ball down the third-base line, which Smith-Cotton’s Dakota Brown dove to stop then threw to first for the out.
“I was worried we weren’t going to get anything by him,” said Hickman coach Dan Devine.
Hickman batters did eventually sneak a couple of hits by Brown later in the inning to bring home a run to tie the game. Another ball hit to Brown ended the fourth when he stepped on the bag and threw to first for a double play.
The tie did not last long as Hickman scored three runs in the fifth and added four in the sixth. Carter Buresh led off the fifth with a triple and the next three batters singled.
A double from Brian Montgomery started the rally in the sixth and another double by Fitch capped things off, scoring a pair of runs.
“I think it was just a little bit of nerves the first time through (the lineup),” Devine said. “Our guys are pretty good hitters. They took some good swings the first time through and then got a little bit relaxed. They just saw the ball a little better.”
After Smith-Cotton broke through in the first, Foley held the Tigers scoreless the rest of the way. S-C nearly added to the lead in the third inning when Bradbury tried to score from third on a flyball to center, but he couldn’t beat the throw from Buresh at the plate.
Foley scattered six hits in the complete game victory. He struck out four and walked none.
“He’s done that all year long,” Devine said. “He’s our No. 1 starter and he has real good command of all his pitches. He’s got a real good fastball and a couple breaking pitches, and he can throw them for strikes anytime he wants to. When he’s on, he can be tough.”
Smith-Cotton hitters were making contact for much of the game, but fly balls to the outfield didn’t drop in and a sharp line drive from Chance McMullin in the fifth went right to the Hickman first baseman.
“That team didn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Kindle said. “At the same time, we’ve had a fantastic season of hitting, defense and pitching.”
Hickman advances to face Jefferson City in the district semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Monday.