Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
O’FALLON — Fatima first baseman Will Robertson was walked by Lutheran: St. Charles each of the four times he came to the plate Monday — three times intentionally. Unfortunately for the Cougars, they couldn’t pitch around everyone.
The Comets manufactured nine runs to advance past Lutheran in a Class 3 semifinal, 9-4 at T.R. Hughes Ballpark.
“Whoever gave them their scouting report, Will must have really done some damage in that game,” Fatima coach Scott Kilgore said. “We’re looking at it like, ‘OK, the kid’s a good hitter, but wow.’ … But I told him, and I was joking around with him, his on-base percentage is a thousand.”
Senior Alex Dickneite threw his third complete game of the playoffs to help the Comets reach their second championship contest in the past three seasons.
Fatima (21-7) will take on Scott City (21-12) for the title at 1:30 p.m. today. Scott City defeated Warsaw 4-1 in Monday’s first semifinal.
All of the Cougars’ scoring came via a pair identical two-run home runs into the Stan Musial Porch in right-center. Dickneite responded, however, to keep Kilgore from having to use his bullpen for the first time this postseason.
“He bounced back after those two big swings in this ballgame very well,” Kilgore said. “And that was what’s so, I think, impressive about this performance. You don’t really see that out of a high school kid too much.
“… Both of those home runs were not weak shots. Those were earned, and those were bad pitches, and he’ll be the first one to tell you, ‘Coach, it was my fault. It was a bad pitch.’ And he accepted that and that’s what got him through the seven innings and a win today.”
Prior to Monday, the Comets had only allowed three runs all postseason.
“I knew coach would give me a little room to work with if I could just keep pitching, and I had that in the back of my mind,” Dickneite said. “So once he hit that, obviously with my run support I just kept pitching, and I was able to make some pitches there at the end to get them out of it.”
The fact Fatima never trailed didn’t hurt.
“Obviously, that’s going to be the last high school game I’m ever going to pitch in, and to go out on a win was awesome. I can’t thank my teammates enough,” Dickneite said. “They’ve been providing me with run support all year and to end it like that, they didn’t fail. They did it again, and that kept me in the game, and that was awesome.”
Fatima scored two runs in the first when Sam Hager reached on an error and Robertson was walked for the first time. Matt Temmen knocked a single to right to drive in Hager, and Robertson came home on a wild pitch.
The Comets extended their lead to 3-0 in the second when Logan Vogel drew a two-out walk and came home on a double by Hager.
“Like in any game, it’s important to jump out on a team,” Kilgore said. “Especially when you’re in the Final Four.”
The first Cougar bomb shrunk the Comets’ edge to 3-2 in the third, but a Fatima five-run fourth-inning explosion assuaged any concerns for the Fatima crowd.
Jared Schulte began the inning with a walk. He stole second and moved to third when the throw sailed into the outfield, and Logan Vogel drove him home with a sacrifice fly. Sam Hager then hit his second double of the day, leaving first base open for a Robertson walk. Zach Hudspeth reached on an error, and a Temmen grounder forced Hager out at first.
That’s when the wheels fell off for Lutheran. Robertson and Hudspeth each scored on wild pitches as Hunter Hennier was drawing a walk. Austin Schubert then capped the inning with a two-RBI, hit-and-run single. By the time the ninth batter of the inning reached the plate, the Comets led 8-2.
“We had that one big inning and anytime you can have a big inning,” it helps, Kilgore said. “I know Lutheran had a big inning against South Callaway in their quarterfinal to get here. You have a big inning and it takes the wind out of your opponents.”
The Comets took advantage of Lutheran’s mistakes, and there were plenty of them. The Cougars had five wild pitches, three errors and walked 10.
“It’s part of baseball,” Kilgore said, “and we did. We were able to take advantage of some of the mistakes they made defensively and then get big hits with runners in scoring position or a hit-and-run situation to where you’re driving runs in, you’re hitting behind runners. Right now, we’re doing it all, and we’re gelling.”
The Cougars made a last push by sending another two-run home run to right-center in the sixth, but Dickneite got out of the inning after a Lutheran batter reached on an error.
Vogel will get the start on the mound in today’s title game.
“Wouldn’t rather have anybody else out there,” Dickneite said. “It’s been going back forth all season, and I’m sure he’ll deal well (today).”
The Comets concluded the game’s scoring in the sixth when Schubert drove in Temmen for his third RBI of the day. Schubert is the team’s only senior who didn’t play on last year’s third-place team, as he was focusing on basketball. Kilgore said he’s been quite the addition as a designated hitter.
“Austin’s paid off for us all year,” Kilgore said. “Each game you go through in the postseason is a bigger game, so he’s coming through in these big games, and that’s huge. He’s having a good time. The kid’s talented. The kid can hit, obviously, and he’s putting the bat on the ball with runners in scoring position. He’s getting the job done.”
The third-place contest between Lutheran and Warsaw will start at 10:30 a.m.