The Fatima Comets are stepping up their usual competition a few class levels this weekend by playing in the Capital City Invitational.
Each game provides significant opportunity to get better, but against Class 4 and 5 opponents, mistakes of focus are magnified against the slim margin for error. That was the case in a 7-3 loss to Lutheran: St. Charles, a game in which Fatima took the lead twice, and an 11-0 defeat in six innings against Eureka in pool play Friday at Vivion Field.
"We need to mature a little bit," Fatima coach Brian Bax said after the Lutheran: St. Charles game. "We have to stay more focused in the moment and take care of what's happening right then, instead of worrying about what happened the previous at-bat."
The Comets (3-7) committed two errors and four wild pitches/passed balls that contributed to five unearned runs. Starter Gage Bax took the loss, throwing three innings with six strikeouts and no walks, and allowed two earned runs on nine hits. Dawson Peters threw three innings of relief, striking out one and walking two, and allowed three hits and two unearned runs.
Bax's day was done at 77 pitches in the bottom of the fourth after two singles, an error and a fielder's choice that did not result in an out. Bax is Fatima's starting catcher, and Fatima's coaching staff did not use the team's top two arms in Friday's early games, preserving them for Friday night's late game against Jefferson City and today's trophy game.
"We're losing our focus, and it's costing us in big situations," Brian Bax said. "We're trying, as a coaching staff, to get them to understand that a few passed balls by a catcher or a wild pitch or two by a pitcher, because we're not mentally prepared or in a game, that can be the entire ballgame. And in a game like that, where a couple plays make a three-, four-run difference, and then that's a loss, versus a win.
"I'm glad we competed a little better than we did the first game. I don't want to make excuses. The bottom line is we have to get better."
Fatima had six hits against the Cougars' Josh Turner and Tanner Mueller, and drew five walks in three innings off of Turner, the starter.
The Comets scored in the top of the first after Austin Wegman drew a leadoff walk and Josef Keilholz doubled to the fence in right-center. Keilholz finished 2-for-4 at the plate, and was the only Fatima hitter with multiple hits or an RBI.
After Lutheran: St. Charles re-took the lead in the bottom of the first with four hits, the Comets answered with two runs in the top of the third. Keilholz reached with a one-out single, Ethan Backes reached two batters later on a two-out walk, and Bax loaded the bases with a walk of his own after working the count full with a pair of foul balls. Gage Cunningham then hit a ball hard to first that Jake Millard couldn't handle cleanly, and two runs scored when he tried an off-balance throw to Turner coming to cover first.
But the Cougar bats did not stay quiet. Lutheran: St. Charles put its leadoff man aboard in every inning but the second and sixth, and brought that leadoff man home every time.
In the loss to Eureka, Wegman and Wyatt Luebbert each pitched three innings.
Fatima finished up pool play late Friday night with a 13-9 loss in eight innings to Jefferson City.
The Jays rallied with three runs in the seventh to tie it at 8 and added five in the extra frame.
Wegman had three hits for the Comets, while Bax totaled two hits and three RBI.
Fatima will face Russellville at 10 a.m. today in the seventh-place game at the Legion Complex.