Soft hits beat hard outs

Location, location, location.

Good timing doesn't hurt, either.

The Rock Bridge Bruins used a series of well-placed hits and some clutch two-out hitting to knock off the Jefferson City Jays 9-3 on Tuesday in a battle of top-five Class 5 teams at Vivion Field.

"They had some dinks and dunks, then they hit some balls really hard after the fact," Jays coach Brian Ash said. "Then you look at our outs ... we hit the ball hard, a lot of line drives, but they were right at guys.

"It was frustrating that more of those didn't fall, but I thought we had a lot of good at-bats."

In other words, soft hits beat hard outs.

"We've been scoring a lot of runs and I'm still very confident that once we hit district time, some of those balls will fall," Ash said. "Today was just one of those games."

The fourth-ranked Jays (18-4) took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-run double Rylie Klosterman and run-scoring single by Ripken Dodson.

The fifth-ranked Bruins (18-5) had one of those "soft" hits leading off the third, an infield single. The next hit was NOT soft, as Jansen Smith belted a two-run homer.

"He's leading the state in RBI for a reason," Ash said of Smith. "He can swing it."

The Bruins didn't do much swinging in the fourth, but scored two runs to take the lead for good.

A lead-off walk to the No. 9 batter --- his second walk of the game --- was followed by consecutive bunt singles to load the bases with nobody out. Rock Bridge had its 3-4-5 hitters coming up.

But Jefferson City starter Corey Beard almost got out of it. An 11-pitch at-bat by Connor Brumfield resulted in a fielder's choice put-out at the plate. Up came Smith, who did the same.

Two out, bases still loaded.

"We almost worked out of it," Ash said.

But then Smith --- who had three hits --- hurt the Jays with his legs, as beat out a play at second that resulted in a two-run infield single by Tanner Cooper.

"The play was probably at first base, because (Smith) had a secondary lead and was already halfway to second," Ash said. "But that's a judgment call ... he thought he had the flip to second."

Those two-out runs were followed by five more with two out in the sixth --- the first run scored on a bloop-single to short right field.

"They took advantage of all of their opportunities," Ash said.

But seven runs scored with two out ... it wasn't all about location.

"That's the difference in the game," Ash said. "At times, we were throwing pitches that were too good and catching too much of the plate, and you can't do that."

This outcome has certainly muddied the waters for the upcoming district tournament, which will start May 11 at Vivion Field.

The teams filling the top-three seeds are basically locked-in --- Jefferson City, Rock Bridge and Helias. Their order is anything but locked-in.

Jefferson City beat Helias; Helias beat Rock Bridge; and Rock Bridge beat Jefferson City. So that's a wash. Helias, however, has beaten Hickman (the likely No. 4 seed) twice. The Jays won't play Hickman in the regular season (the scheduled game was cancelled by rain); the Bruins and Kewpies won't play until after Sunday's seeding meeting.

That would seem to push Helias to the No. 1 seed, leaving the Bruins and Jays in a scramble for No. 2.

"I don't know," Ash said. "It will fall whatever way they think it should fall. I still think we're one of the top two teams in the district. I'd like to think we're in that conversation, anyway."

At the very least, the location of the district tournament in a good one for the Jays.