Jordan Duncan immediately knew something was wrong.
The Herculaneum High quarterback felt a sharp pain in his hip following practice last October leading up to an important district game against Principia.
Yet Duncan remained silent and didn’t tell anyone, outside of his parents
“I thought if I didn’t play it would be letting down the seniors,” Duncan recalled. “I would never do that.”
So he went ahead and took every snap in a 42-0 loss.
Duncan promptly went to the hospital the next day, where it was determined that he had a hairline fracture in his right hip.
That courageous effort did not go unnoticed.
“That’s just the kind of kid he is,” Festus Post 253 baseball coach Zac Bone said. “It’s always teammates first for him.”
Duncan, a pitcher and infielder, has used his gutsy, never-say-die mantra to help Festus reach the Mid-South American Legion baseball tournament.
Post 253, the Missouri runner-up, will take a 32-11 record up against Kansas state champion Emporia (34-2) at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the eight-team, double-elimination affair. Emporia has won 18 successive games, averaging nine runs per outing along the way.
Festus is making its first regional appearance since 2011. The tradition-rich Jefferson County program won the Central Plains Regional title in 2009 and placed fifth at the American Legion World Series.
Duncan, who will be a senior at Herculaneum later this month, has played a key role in the thrilling postseason ride, which includes runner-up finishes in the Zone 4 and state tournaments.
His toughness and ferocity have lit a fire under the team, which draws the majority of its players from Festus, Hillsboro and Jefferson R-6 high schools.
Duncan’s effort on the football field, under the most painful of conditions, is still talked about in Herculaneum, a town of 3,900.
“People respect him for doing that,” Festus Post 253 pitcher/outfielder Kaleb Schweigert said. “Not too many kids would put the team ahead of their own injury, especially an injury like that.”
Duncan told his parents, Amy and Justin, that “something wasn’t right” with his hip. He also told them he was going to go ahead and play.
“He’s a tough cookie,” Amy said. “We left the decision up to him.”
Duncan, a three-sport all-conference selection in baseball, football and basketball, paid the consequences. He spent a couple of weeks on crutches and missed the first eight games of the basketball season.
But by mid-January, he was healthy enough to rejoin the team. Duncan averaged 12.2 points during his 16-game campaign, good enough for second on the team. He tallied 12 points or more in seven of the Blackcats' last eight games.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder came in his own during the spring baseball season. A relative newcomer to the pitching mound, he compiled a 6-4 mark with a 1.73 ERA. He struck out 86 batters in 56-plus innings, the most strikeouts of any area pitcher in Missouri.
Plus, Duncan hit a whopping .429 with a .544 on-base percentage, both team highs.
And he has carried that momentum over to the legion season.
Bone, who also coaches baseball at Herculaneum, limited Duncan’s innings on the mound in June to make sure he was fresh for the late-season run.
Duncan turned in one of the biggest pitching performances of the post-season on Friday with a two-hit, complete-game effort in a 5-1 win over Washington that sent Post 253 into the title game and the Mid-South Regional. The top two teams in Missouri advance to the five-day regional, making Duncan’s effort even more important.
“I really never started pitching until my sophomore year, so I’m pretty proud that,” Duncan said.
Sedalia beat Festus 3-0 in 10 innings in the championship round Saturday.
Still, Post 253 is elated about advancing. Duncan says the tournament will be the biggest of his athletic career so far in any sport.
Duncan is hitting .398 with a .slugging percentage of .678 for Post 253. He has six home runs and 37. He is 3-2 on the bump with a 1.14 ERA.
A superstitious type, Duncan never goes into a game without a large cache of Skittles nearby. Amy began giving him the candy earlier in his career and the tradition became widely known.
So much so that Duncan has to hide the treats from his teammates.
“Usually behind a helmet in the rack,” he says.
Post 253 has plenty of momentum heading into the tournament despite Saturday’s loss.
“When one guy's not hitting, another guy will pick him up,” Duncan said. “That’s the way it’s worked all year for us, so we feel like we can keep on doing it.”