Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
WESTPHALIA — Fatima didn’t have a big inning at the plate Monday in its Class 3 sectional game against Mountain Grove. Luckily for the Comets, a bunch of little innings works, too.
Especially when your pitcher throws a two-hitter.
Fatima scored one run in each of the first four innings and two in the sixth to back Alex Dickneite for a 6-2 victory.
“We didn’t have that huge inning,” Fatima coach Scott Kilgore said. “But if you can pick away — and that’s kind of what we did. We just kept it coming. We kept the pressure coming and we got some hits with runners in scoring position and scratched them across.”
Six runs were more than enough with Dickneite on the mound. The senior didn’t allow an earned run and struck out seven on 93 pitches.
Dickneite walked the first batter in each of the first two innings on a combined nine pitches, but he settled in and threw just 19 balls the rest of the game — a span of 22 batters.
“Alex Dickneite threw an outstanding game,” Kilgore said. “First inning, a little shaky, but man, he really fell into a groove.”
Dickneite said he felt a few butterflies as the first pitch approached.
“I’ve been thinking about this game for a day now,” he said. “Once I got on the mound, they all kind of went away, but yeah, there were definitely nerves before the game.”
The Panthers grabbed the first lead of the game by taking advantage of Dickneite’s first walk, which was issued to Mountain Grove starting pitcher Jacob Mitchell. Mitchell moved into scoring position on an error and scored from second when a single to center field was misplayed.
The Comets didn’t take long to respond. Leadoff man Logan Vogel singled to left-center and advanced to third on a hit-and-run and a wild pitch. Matt Temmen hit a grounder to short to score Vogel and tie the game at 1.
“Anytime you can get a jump on a team, that’s big, but if you can come back right away and tie it, it’s a new ballgame,” Kilgore said. “It’s anybody’s ball game at that. We managed to scratch a couple across early and get ahead, get a lead and hold onto it.”
Vogel’s hit was his first of three on the day, one of which was a double to the wall in left center.
“He’s just been solid offensively for us in the leadoff spot,” Kilgore said. “Anytime he can get on consistently like he’s been, it’s a major plus for your team.”
Fatima took and gradually widened its lead during the next three innings despite having just three hits among them. Vogel’s double drove in Austin Schubert — who walked — in the second, Will Robertson reached on an error and was balked home in the third, and Jared Schulte singled and scored on Robertson’s double in the fourth.
“Our goal is just to win every inning,” Dickneite said. “And if we can keep putting runs on the board, I think we’re going to be successful.”
The only inning in which Fatima was outscored was the fifth. Mitchell was hit by a pitch, moved to third on an error at second and scored on a sacrifice fly by D.J. McNew. Mitchell, who pitched two-plus innings before moving to third, was the only Panther to touch home Monday.
As with the first inning, however, Dickneite minimized the damage and stranded a runner in scoring position.
“Those guys, they’re behind me all the time, and I’m not going to let one little mess-up by them affect me,” Dickneite said. “We’ve just got to keep battling, and that’s what we did.”
The Comets gave Dickneite a little wiggle room in the sixth with their only crooked number of the day. Schulte, Vogel and Sam Hager began the inning with consecutive singles to double Fatima’s hit total and plate two runs.
With just three outs to get, Kilgore told Dickneite the complete-game win was his for the taking.
“He let me have it, and he has trust in me,” Dickneite said. “I love that.”
The game ended on an exclamation point for the Comets. With Mountain Grove attempting a two-out steal, catcher Zach Hudspeth fired a throw directly to second base. Schulte broke from shortstop to make the play and, in one motion, dove, caught the ball and applied the tag to end the game.
“Zach threw a strike. You had to throw a strike to get that,” Kilgore said. “… That was an interesting end to a sectional game.”
The Comets (19-7) play Wednesday at Stockton (18-9) with hopes of reaching their third straight Final Four.
“For this group of seniors, I think it would mean a lot,” Kilgore said. “Because that would be a third appearance for the majority of them, and obviously that’s your goal every time out.
“You want to be playing your best baseball right now, and we’re doing that.”