Rock Bridge’s Jack Widhalm grew up itching for a chance to pitch in the Bruins’ rivalry game against Hickman. He thought about Monday’s start all day in school.

The real thing was everything he imagined.

Widhalm dueled with Hickman junior Trae Robertson. Widhalm gave up three hits and struck out seven in 6⅔ innings in the Bruins’ 4-2 victory at Rock Bridge Field.

“We tip our hat to their pitcher. He owned us tonight,” Hickman Coach Mason Mershon said. “We had a lot of hard hits right at them, and they made the plays on defense, too. I thought Trae pitched really well for us. He pitched good enough to win.”

Widhalm wasn’t just eager for the chance to pitch against Hickman (18-6), he wanted to be back on the mound against anyone. On April 17, in a game at St. Dominic, Widhalm aggravated his hamstring and was out until a few days ago.

Monday was his first trip back to the mound.

“I was excited to get back out there and try to help the team get a win,” Widhalm said. “I felt good. I was just trying to throw strikes early.”

Widhalm located his pitches well, and the defense behind him kept what can be an explosive Hickman offense at bay until Andrew Paten hit a two-run triple in the top of the seventh inning.

“We can’t wait that long to put runs on the board, period,” Mershon said. “It was too little too late.”

Rock Bridge (19-10) got going earlier despite a strong outing from Robertson, a Missouri commitment, who struck out seven.

In the third inning, a sacrifice fly from Jordan Smith scored Jake Walters, and Widhalm added an RBI double. In the fourth inning, Wyatt Towe delivered a two-run single.

Widhalm had retired 15 consecutive batters before giving up a single to Dakota Solomon in the sixth inning.

He was replaced by Nick Wohlbold after Paten’s triple in the seventh. Wohlbold, who injured his calf in the same St. Dominic’s game in which Widhalm was hurt, retired Bennett Patton to end the game. Having their top two pitchers back and in form before the district tournament begins Saturday in Jefferson City is crucial for the Bruins.

“If we want a chance to win, we have to win three baseball games,” Rock Bridge Coach Justin Towe said. “I think the strength of our team is the depth of our pitching. We have arms.”

The Bruins and Kewpies could meet again in the district tournament. Hickman, the second seed, will play the winner of third-seeded Rock Bridge and six-seed Camdenton on Monday..

After itching for his chance to leave his mark in the rivalry, Widhalm did on Monday. As one of Rock Bridge’s top two arms, there is a strong possibility he could again, in the postseason.

But Towe hasn’t thought that far yet.

“We just have to keep taking steps forward,” he said. “Before we can think about these guys, we have to worry about Camdenton.”

Email Cameron Teague Robinson at cjteaguerobinson@columbiatribune.com or call 815-1781