Fatima will face Hallsville in Class 3 semifinal today

Patrick Schnieders and the Fatima Comets will play the Hallsville Indians tonight in the Class 3 semifinals.

Patrick Schnieders and the Fatima Comets will play the Hallsville Indians tonight in the Class 3 semifinals. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman.

O’FALLON — The last time Fatima played in the baseball Final Four, Joe Crede was wearing a Comet uniform.

Crede is now a former Major League Baseball player who was recently inducted to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. That was 1996. This is 2013. Now the Comets will try to do what that squad couldn’t — win a state championship.

Fatima (21-5) can get one step closer to that goal with a win against Hallsville (14-11) in a Class 3 semifinal at 7 p.m. today at T.R. Hughes Ballpark.

“The kids are excited. It’s kind of indescribable as to how excited, but I can just tell you they’re ready to go,” Fatima head coach Scott Kilgore said. “They want to get an opportunity to play in that championship game.”

For three Comets — seniors Patrick Schnieders, Nolan Bax and Tanner Gentges — it’s the second Final Four just this year. That trio played in the basketball Final Four in March, taking home a fourth-place finish.

Oddly enough, Fatima hadn’t reached a basketball Final Four since 1996, a team Crede also played on.

“Now to answer in baseball, that’s pretty exciting,” Kilgore said. “They’re very talented athletes.”

Fatima has one baseball state title to its name, with that coming in 1992. The Comets also have a third-place finish in 1991, a second-place trophy from 1995 and a fourth-place result from 1996.

“Any time you win a state championship, you’ve got to have great talent, you have to be able to hit the ball, pitch the ball, field the ball and then get a little luck along the way,” Kilgore said. “Hopefully things go well for us, but regardless, it’s been an outstanding run. I don’t think we’re going to be disappointed with any result at this point.”

Going off past results, the odds are in Fatima’s favor to reach the title game. The Comets beat Hallsville 13-3 in the season-opener March 19, but Kilgore’s not sure if that means much, if anything.

“We know it’s going to be a challenge, just because they’re playing a lot better baseball than they were then,” he said. “So that 13-3 win doesn’t really gauge anything. On the flip side of that, I think we’re a much-improved team from that standpoint as well.

“They’re hot right now, so are we. We expect it to be fun.”

Fatima’s path to the Final Four saw wins over South Callaway (6-0), Blair Oaks (3-0), Holden (8-0) and Maryville (7-2).

Those first three wins were complete-game shutouts for Fatima pitchers before the Spoofhounds snapped the streak. It took a Comet opponent until the 25th inning of postseason play to score a run.

“That’s unbelievable,” Kilgore said. “That’s something obviously you don’t see every year. When you get this far, your pitching has to dominate, and we’ve gotten that out of those two guys.”

Those two guys would be Schnieders and Seth Lehmen, a pair of right-handed starters who have been dominant in the playoffs.

Here their lines:

Schnieders — 14 innings pitched, no runs allowed, 18 strikeouts, five hits.

Lehmen — 14 innings pitched, two runs (one earned), 10 strikeouts, 12 hits.

“Those two have just been so focused,” Kilgore said. “Every time they take the mound, they’re such competitors. When they do get into trouble, they make the adjustments that they need to make so they can continue pitching so they don’t get pulled.”

Lehmen appears to be the starter against the Indians.

“I think I’m going to go with Seth at this point,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent sure. I’m still undecided. We’re going to have both of them healthy, so regardless of who we start, both of those guys will be ready.”

The offense, led by Schnieders, Bax, Reid Kesel, Ryan Mebruer and Brady Weber, has come up big for Fatima.

“We’ve just managed to get the key hits with runners in scoring position,” Kilgore said. “At this point, that’s been a difference for us. That’s been able to put us on top.”

Hallsville’s march to the Final Four includes victories over Centralia (2-0), Wright City (4-3), Palmyra (9-0) and Lutheran North (4-2).

Waiting on the other side of the bracket are Springfield Catholic (22-4) and New Madrid County Central (15-14), who play the first semifinal at 4 p.m. today.

Fatima will face one of those two opponents Friday in either the championship (1 p.m.) or third-place game (10 a.m.).

“I know Springfield Catholic is flat nasty,” Kilgore said. “They have great pitching, outstanding offense and their defense is unbelievable. I hope we get an opportunity to play them.

“New Madrid County Central, I’ve been following them a little bit. I don’t know a whole lot about them, just because they’re on the other side of the state and we don’t have any common opponents. But I know that they’re good. They’ve gone on a great run and strung some wins together and they’re in the Final Four.”

Before Friday, though, Fatima must take care of business today.

“It’s just a special thing,” Kilgore said. “I’m glad to be a part of it. I know these boys are excited and they’re glad to be a part of it. I hope we go in and play well and have a little luck along the way.”

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