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Piepmeier shows he wants to be 'our dude' in Nixa's rout of defending state champs


The knock on Nixa by pre-season pundits, and it was a pounding, prevalent perspective, was that coach Logan Hughes’ team didn’t possess a powerful No. 1 pitcher the likes of former Eagles kingpin Isaac Mitchell.

Suddenly, there’s not a peep of pessimism pertaining to Keith Piepmeier being prepared for such a promotion.

Piepmeier is putting together the profile of an ace. He posted a premier performance to promote his portfolio in Nixa’s 10-2 pummeling of Willard on Tuesday.

Piepmeier three-hit the defending Class 5 state champions, while striking out seven and walking four. A pep talk from Hughes to Piepmeier with two Tigers on base and Nixa on top 3-2 in the fourth inning played a pivotal factor.

He came out to me and said, ‘If you want to be our guy, let’s do this thing right now, if you want the complete, game, let’s do this now,’” Piepmeier said. “It made me more determined (and) more determined to stay in the game.”

“He said before the (season) that he wants to be ‘our dude.’ He wants to our best pitcher and one of the best pitchers in the state,” Hughes said. “I challenged him halfway through the game  and said, ‘This is your chance right now. We’re in a spot, we just took the lead and I want to see if you can give me four more zeroes, otherwise I’ve got to find someone else to bring in.’ He said, ‘You won’t have to find someone else.’”

Piepmeier’s pitch-count would have been the only reason he would have been pulled. He got ‘four more zeroes’ and struck out five of the final six batters he faced. He started his final batter with a pitch-count of 104, one shy of MSHSAA’s max of 105, allowing him to close things out.

Piepmeier’s curve ball had plenty of break and plenty of pop.

“It was working,” Piepmeier said. “I don’t think they hit it once at the end. They’re a solid team. I feel good about myself, winning that game against a really good team.

“I was ready to go tonight,” he added. “First inning, I didn’t expect to walk two guys. Other than that, it worked out. I did my job.”

That’s been the case all season. Piepmeier, who is uncommitted at the college level, owns a 4-0 W-L record and 1.00 ERA. Over 21 innings in five appearances, he has struck out 26, walked nine and opponents are hitting .157 against him.

He’s certainly went from one spectrum to the other, having been an anonymous backup on Nixa’s basketball team over the winter.

“It’s nice to be a star player, instead of like in basketball,” Piepmeier said. “It’s a lot different being ‘the guy.’”

Nixa (15-0 overall and 1-0 in the COC) plated 10 unanswered runs on nine hits.

Second baseman Ryan Michel got the Eagles’ offense going with a two-run home run, his first homer on the season.

Michel is hitting .344 with eight extra-base hits, but leading up to Tuesday hadn’t felt his timing at-bat was right.  

“I went through a little struggle and went in the cages and worked on some things,” Michel siad. “I’ve picked it up now. I’ve focused on staying on my back heel. I was going after (pitches), instead of letting them come to me.”

“He gets a little anxious in the box when he just swings — there’s a big difference between swinging and hitting,” Hughes said. “He’s been a guy who wants to make contact so much. We’re trying to teach him it’s OK to swing and miss early (in the count), as long as we’re being aggressive.”

Shortstop Ryan Retone enjoyed a 2-for-3 night with three RBIs.

“I’m working more opposite field, looking to left-center,” the left-handed swinging Retone said. “If I keep my front shoulder locked in and look opposite field, I’m going to hit a lot of balls hard. That’s what I’ve started to do.”

Catcher Jaret Nelson doubled, walked twice and scored two runs. Third baseman Tanner Grant, first baseman John Gholson and designated hitter Jack Edwards all also doubled and each drove in a run. Sam Russo walked twice and scored a run.

Nixa chased Willard starting pitcher and Drury signee Kade Biellier in the fourth inning.

“We had good at-bats the first couple innings. We didn’t score, but we grinded,” Hughes said. “Ultimately, that makes it tough on a pitcher, when he has no easy outs. And eventually we’re going to figure him out.”

Nixa’s speed put pressure on Willard’s infielders and exposed them a bit. The Tigers (10-4) were guilty of three errors on what should have been rather routine groundouts.

The rout was on.

We forced them into making some errors because we run so fast and so hard out of the box,” Hughes said. “It made them play faster than they wanted to.”