Freshman pitcher Allison Carwile has been thrown into the fire this season for Jefferson City softball.
Without ace Avrey Reynolds, Carwile was given the start. Tuesday she was stuck in a pitcher's duel after two innings against Fatima, keeping the game scoreless and getting through the first six batters in just 12 pitches.
That pitcher's duel was short-lived. Carwile gave up nine runs in the next five innings, and that was more than enough for the Lady Comets in a 9-0 win against the Lady Jays at Vogel Field.
Jefferson City's returning all-district ace Reynolds is working her way back and the team has been struggling in her absence. The Lady Jays are now 0-6 and Tuesday was the team's first game allowing fewer than 10 runs.
"I don't think there's a sport around that is affected as much by a COVID issue as a softball pitcher," Jefferson City coach Zac Miller said. "Especially when you're in the situation we are where we have one girl who does a lot of our pitching. She'll throw 95 percent of our games, so when she's not in there you'll take a blow."
Miller said the team hopes to get Reynolds back next week. Her absence does give the freshman pitcher some experience when Reynolds graduates after next season.
"Hopefully that's giving her that confidence of, 'Hey, you know, I can go out and do this. If I throw strikes and make the defensive work, we've got a chance,'" Miller said.
Carwile didn't allow an extra-base hit until the seventh inning when the Lady Comets scored twice off three straight doubles, but she walked five batters and Jefferson City was sunk by untimely errors.
After a leadoff walk by Carwile to start the third, things started to go sideways. Fatima outfielder Anna Eichholz put a sacrifice bunt right to Carwile, who turned to an empty first base. Her throw got there before a Lady Jays' fielder could scramble to the bag in time.
"A lot of our mistakes tonight were a lot of inexperience," Miller said. "You learn a lot of things, like playing softball, by playing a lot of games and being in game situations. We had a lot of situations tonight where the lack of game situations really hit us hard. We're a lot less experienced team this year."
Then, a wild pitch scored the leadoff runner while a drop-third strike put another runner on base later in the at-bat. A single and a sacrifice fly gave the Lady Comets a 3-0 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Really, if we make a couple plays here and there, it's a lot closer ball game than a 9-0 game," Miller said.
That inning would have been enough, but scoring two runs each in the final three innings gave the Fatima pitchers a cushion to work with. A 1-2 punch of senior Chayce Gier and sophomore Taylor Baumhoer limited Jefferson City to two hits.
Gier struck out five in four innings of work as the starter and gave up only a pair of singles. Lady Jays first baseman Emma Friedman hit a single through the gap before stealing second, but a sliding catch by Lady Comets second baseman Katelyn Plassmeyer took away a base hit from Lydia Hudson and wiped away the best shot the Lady Jays had of scoring.
Baumhoer shut the door out of the bullpen with five strikeouts in three no-hit innings. She allowed just two runners, both on walks.
"It was a good team effort with great intensity," Fatima assistant coach Steve Schnieders said.
A Jays lineup that struggled is inexperienced outside of seniors Addison Morgan and Hudson, with four underclassmen in the lineup and others without a whole lot of varsity at-bats.
"They're coming out working hard and we're doing things better each game that we need to do so," Miller said. "At this point where we're at, I think it's just the more we play the better off we're going to be."
Jefferson City continues its season today at 5:30 p.m. against Helias at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.
Fatima (4-1) plays Friday at Troy Buchanan.