Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
It’s not unusual for a team’s arms to outperform its bats on opening day.
“Early in the season, your pitching’s always a little bit better than your hitting,” said Fatima coach Scott Kilgore, whose Comets had four hits Saturday.
“I think you obviously saw that today,” said Jefferson City High School coach Brian Ash, whose Jays were held to two hits.
Ultimately, Fatima’s hits came at more opportune times, and the Comets topped the Jays 2-1 at Vivion Field in the first game of the year for both teams.
Neither team had a hit in the first three innings, though one Jay walked and three were hit by pitches while a Comet reached on an error. Fatima seemed to have bucked the trend in the top of the fourth when Will Robertson reached first on a grounder just after the relay went in and out of Brett Jaegers’ extended glove. The play, however, was later amended to an error.
Gavin Strobel began the Jays’ fourth inning with a single, but the real hitting came in the fifth. Fatima catcher Zach Hudspeth pulled a double deep down the left field line and Matt Temmen crushed a double of his own to put the Comets on the board.
The Jays’ second and final hit came on a Jaegers sixth-inning deep fly that evaded right-fielder Sam Hager, and Jaegers scored when an attempt to catch a stealing Travis Hennessy, who just become the Jays’ fourth hit batsmen of the day, sailed past a pair of Fatima middle infielders.
The Comets got two hits, a Robertson infield single and Hudspeth’s second double of the day, to take a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning to conclude the afternoon’s small dose of hitting.
Jefferson City stranded nine runners and failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position.
“Frustration would be a kind (way) to put it,” Ash said. “Bottom line is, you get runners in scoring position with one out or less, you’ve got to find a way to get guys across the plate.”
Meanwhile, half of the Comets’ hits resulted in RBI.
“Your comfort zone just isn’t quite there yet,” Kilgore said. “But we got some hits. We got some timely hits with runners in scoring position.”
Though they were hitless in the inning, the Jays let an opportunity slip by in the third.
Garrit Shirts was hit by a pitch, stole second and moved to third on a J.T. Bohlken sacrifice. While Grant Wood and Adam Grunden reached on a hit-by-pitch and a walk, respectively, Comet starter Alex Dickneite escaped with a grounder.
Dickneite allowed one hit and struck out five in five innings of work and kept the Jays scoreless despite walking two batters and hitting three.
“Alex, he’s not a pitcher that’s going to overpower anybody, but he’s fairly crafty, and he’s got a nice knuckleball,” Kilgore said. “He changes speeds very well, and if he can command two pitches out of his arsenal, he’s going to be effective.”
Brady Weavers of the Comets allowed an unearned run on one hit and four strikeouts in relief.
His biggest jam came in the sixth, when the Jays scored their lone run. They had the chance to plate more, however, as Hennessy reached first on a hit-by-pitch and Ripken Dodson walked. Weavers appeared to get out of the inning when he struck out pinch hitter Jeremy Light, but the ball scooted past Hudspeth to the backstop. The catcher flipped the ball back into an empty infield, but the Jay runner did not attempt to score the tying run. Weavers nixed Jefferson City’s second chance on bases-loaded groundout.
The Comets took advantage of a second chance of their own in the fifth, when Hudspeth’s first double was nearly nullified by a pickoff attempt. Jay lefty Jacob Weirich’s throw beat Hudspeth to second, but the shortstop was caught off guard and had to dive to catch the throw. Hudspeth tiptoed back to the bag and later and scored on Temmen’s full-count double.
Weirich struck out seven in his five innings on the mound and allowed one run on two hits. Blaine Meyer allowed a run on two hits in two innings of relief.
“You give up four hits total in the game, and we had a defensive miscue,” Ash said. “… You can look at the offensive side. Yeah, that’s a glaring thing that we didn’t do well, but a couple other plays defensively if we would have executed they don’t score.”
The Comets (1-0) head Monday to Hallsville, and the Jays (0-1) play in the Willard Tournament on Friday and Saturday.