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story.lead_photo.caption Field preparation at Vivion Field continues April 24, 2021, in advance of a doubleheader between the Jefferson City Jays and St. Thomas Aquinas. Photo by Tom Rackers / News Tribune.

It didn't end the way the Jefferson City Jays wanted.

But that doesn't mean it was a bad day.

"A lot of uglies, but a lot of positives," Jays coach Kyle Lasley said Saturday after Jefferson City dropped a pair of one-run decisions to the St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.) Saints at Vivion Field. "I'm OK with losing. I don't like to lose, but if we're doing it the right way and we're competing, then I'm OK with it.

"The guys competed from the first pitch to the last pitch in both games."

The Jays rallied from deficits in both games before falling 5-4 the opener and 9-8 in eight innings in the nightcap.

Blake O'Brien of the Saints doubled to lead off the first game and advanced to third on a single by Jacob Bittner. Kendall Diggs, an Arkansas commit, followed with an infield single to score O'Brien.

It could have been a bigger inning but Jefferson City right fielder Nick Williams dove to catch a ball off the bat of cleanup hitter Ivan Brethowr and came up throwing to get a double play at second base.

In the fourth, the Saints batted around, scoring three runs to take a 4-0 lead. Jefferson City answered with four runs to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth.

Singles to start the inning by Williams, Jeremy Parks and Wyatt Fischer loaded the bases. After a lineout, Eli Moreland was hit by a pitch to plate Williams. Connor Earleywine followed with a single to score Parks to make it 4-2. Fisher then grounded out to third to score Fischer to cut the deficit to one.

With Joe Hoerchler at the plate, Moreland wandered off third before sprinting toward the plate. The Jefferson City senior beat the pitch for a straight steal of home to tie the game at 4.

The lead lasted just two batters into the top of the fifth when Gabe Fender belted a home run to left center to make it 5-4.

Jefferson City had just one baserunner after the fourth. Taylor Hopkins was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the seventh.

Case Hager took the loss for Jefferson City allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks in 42/3 innings. He struck out four.

"It probably wasn't Case's best performance of the season, but he kept us in it," Lasley said.

Lucas Caudle pitched the final 21/3 innings, allowing two hits and recording three strikeouts.

"Lucas did a good job finding barrels and getting people to put balls in play," Lasley said.

Earleywine and Parks had two hits each in a seven-hit Jefferson City attack.

In the second game, Jefferson City scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 7 before falling in the eighth.

Williams and Parks led off the inning with singles before Fischer walked to load the bases. After a fielder's choice at the plate for the first out, Grayden Whittle hit a gorunder to short for a force out at third. Parks scored on the play to make it 7-5.

Moreland then singled to load the bases. Earleywine struck out swinging, but the ball got away from the Saints catcher and Ethan DuBois scored to cut the deficit to one. With the bases loaded again, Hopkins was hit by a pitch to plate Brayden Whittle with the tying run to send the game to extra innings.

"For us to respond after being down three runs was important," Lasley said.

A pair of sacrifice flies plated a pair of runs for the Saints in the top of the eighth to make it 9-7.

In the bottom of the inning, Williams led off with a walk and designated runner Hayden Wells then moved to third on a single by Parks before scoring on a grounder by Fischer. A walk and a hit-batter, sandwiched around a strikeout, had the bases loaded with two outs before a grounder to short ended the game.

"It comes down to a couple of clutch hits that they had, really in both games," Lasley said.

Fischer had three hits in an 11-hit Jefferson City attack. Parks and Hopkins had two hits each. Jacob Roettgen and Hopkins both had two RBI.

Tanner Schmitz was the start for the Jays, working into the fifth inning, He allowed seven runs on seven hits and six walks with two strikeouts. Caudle pitched again in relief working two scoreless innings.

"We didn't want to use a lot of arms with a busy week ahead of us," Lasley said. "He did a pretty good job."

Jacob Duke pitched the final two innings for the Jays, who walked 11 batters in the second game.

"That's free bases and you can't do that, especially against a quality team like that," Lasley said.

St. Thomas Aquinas is now 9-3 on the season.

Jefferson City (14-7), ranked No. 10 in Class 6 by the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association, has three road games scheduled this week — Monday at Hickman, Tuesday at Lebanon and Friday at Helias.

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