Jays fail to close innings in loss to Rock Bridge

Jefferson City shortstop Gabe Marcantonio makes a back-handed grab of a grounder during third inning of Tuesday’s game against Rock Bridge at Vivion Field.

Jefferson City shortstop Gabe Marcantonio makes a back-handed grab of a grounder during third inning of Tuesday’s game against Rock Bridge at Vivion Field. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman.

Jefferson City might very well have beaten Rock Bridge on Tuesday night if it only had to record two outs in each inning.

Unfortunately for the Jays, the rules of baseball stipulate the defensive team must record three outs in each frame.

Rock Bridge scored seven runs with two outs and knocked off Jefferson City 9-3 in an important battle of top-five teams at Vivion Field.

“The thing is, two outs are killing us right now,” Jefferson City head coach Brian Ash said.

It really was just two plays the Jays didn’t make with two outs that opened the floodgates.

With the fourth-ranked Jays leading 3-2 in the top of the fourth, Rock Bridge (18-5) loaded the bases with no outs. After cutting two runners down at the plate on ground balls, the Bruins broke through thanks to a Jefferson City defensive miscue.

Tanner Cooper hit a ground ball to the shortstop, but instead of trying to get the out at first, he tried to make a play at second. The runner was safe, and two runners came around to score in the process to give No. 5 Rock Bridge a 4-3 lead.

“The play’s got to be made at first because the guy at first, he’s working that secondary lead already moving toward second base,” Ash said. “That’s just a young mistake and we’ve got to learn from it.”

The second defensive miscue was the one that proved most costly for Jefferson City (18-4).

With runners at first and second and two outs in the sixth inning, Cooper blooped a ball to right field that fell between the second baseman and right fielder as neither made a definitive move to catch the ball.

Instead of the inning being over, Rock Bridge had a 5-3 lead. After an RBI single by David Plain made it 6-3, a catcher’s interference call loaded the bases. Logan Twehous put the game away with a three-run double to make the score 9-3 Rock Bridge.

“We don’t catch a ball in short right field, that was a turning point,” Ash said. “Two plays defensively cost us the game.”

While Jefferson City was giving up two-out hits, the offense couldn’t get much going.

The Jays took a 3-0 lead in the second on a two-run double by Rylie Klosterman followed by an RBI single by Ripken Dodson.

But they had just one other hit, a leadoff single by Sam Atkinson in the fifth. He was erased on a double play two pitches later.

“Look at the outs we had,” Ash said. “Were there some times we didn’t hit it solid? Yeah. Look at the outs. We hit a lot of hard line-drive balls to the outfield and infield. They dink and dunk and they had maybe two really hard-hit balls all day. ... It’s just one of those deals.”

Jansen Smith had one of those hard-hit balls, a two-run homer in the fourth that cleared the right-field fence by plenty off of Jefferson City starter Corey Beard, who was charged with all nine runs in 52⁄3 innings.

“Corey did what he had to do,” Ash said. “It was nothing he did. He threw pitches to get the out and we didn’t make the plays for him. That’s the frustrating part. He didn’t have his best stuff that I’ve seen from him this year. He still was able to do pretty much what he wanted to do against them.”

Twehous got the win in relief of Kyle Teter, who left after 12/3 innings with an apparent elbow injury.

The sophomore shut the door on the Jays as he allowed just one hit in 52⁄3 innings.

The game had implications beyond just being a game between state-ranked teams.

Both teams are fighting for the top seed in the upcoming Class 5 District 9 Tournament, as well as a first-round bye. Other district teams include Helias, Hickman, Camdenton and Smith-Cotton.

The seed meeting is set for Sunday.

“We’re going to show up and we’re going to play whoever they decide we’re going to play,” Ash said. “Do I still think we are one of the top two teams? Absolutely. That’s going to be my stance when we go into the seed meeting. You look at common opponents and the teams we’ve beat, I know the score really wasn’t indicative of how this game was played. I still think we are one of the top two teams in this district.”

Jefferson City hosts Quincy (Ill.) at 4 p.m. today. The game will serve as Senior Day as festivities will begin about 15 minutes before the game starts.

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