Defending Class 3 state champion Fatima (33-4) hit the gas early and didn’t let up until the Lady Comets had completed a five-inning, 14-0 win in Saturday’s quarterfinal against …
Defending Class 3 state champion Fatima (33-4) hit the gas early and didn’t let up until the Lady Comets had completed a five-inning, 14-0 win in Saturday’s quarterfinal against Cassville.
At this time of year, anything is possible, so Coach Ashlee Schnieders didn’t take anything for granted. “Everyone feels great, but this one’s special because we’re in the postseason,” she said. “You’re one game away from being done. You’ve got to do your job every time you go out there because you never know when it’s going to be your last.”
Fatima started the year with aspirations of returning to the Final Four, but that did not impact how the Lady Comets played. “Our goal was not to be undefeated in the regular season but to work toward the postseason,” said Schnieders. “That’s what we’re doing right now. My girls are going out there and doing their jobs. They’re learning from every game so we can be prepared for the next game. Moving forward, we need to keep making adjustments in the box. The girls did that early. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing; anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”
Hannah Heisler approached her lead-off position with one thing in mind: setting the table for Kinzey Woody (2-4, 4 RBI). Heisler drilled a single to the fence, and Woody entered the box. She smashed the ball over the left field fence to give Fatima a 2-0 lead.
“I just want to get on base any way possible because I know I have a deep lineup behind me,” said Heisler. “We decided early that we were going to establish our dominance on our home field, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Woody, who hit another pitch to the same location in the fourth for her second HR, said she wasn’t trying to hit a round-tripper.
“I was just trying to hit the ball,” she said. “Hannah coming up and leading us off like that sets the tone for the game from the first batter. She gets on, and my job is to do whatever I have to do to get her in. Faith (Jaegers) comes up behind me. You know, if I’m on, there’s another possible RBI. We’re trying to do everything we can do to score.”
Fatima kept going, loading the bases before Kirsten Robertson had an RBI double. Emerson Williams drove in a run to make it a 4-0 game.
The Lady Comets plated six more in the fourth, with Jaegers hitting a single in addition to Woody’s second HR, her 15th of the year.
Elsie Dickneite drove in two with a double, and Heisler cleared the bases for a 12-0 lead.
Lilly Cunningham finished with a pair of singles to help the Lady Comets win.
On the rubber, Taylor Baumhoer pitched a two-hitter with seven strikeouts. She got around 15 of the 17 batters she faced and has allowed only one run in the postseason. She was sometimes frustrated by some close calls that didn’t go her way, but Baumhoer didn’t let that interfere with her job.
“I am a very strong-headed person, and it’s always very easy for me to get frustrated,” she said. “But you also have to understand that all umpires are human, and failure will happen sometimes. You can’t blame them for anything like that. He was consistent with it. So, at the end of the day, if that’s his strike zone, there’s nothing I can do about it. My frustration means nothing at the end of the day when he’s the one making the call. So, I respect all empires. We won the game; no call cost us anything.”
When she was frustrated, Baumhoer took a few seconds to clear her head before returning to the circle. “We faced a lot of pitchers this year who didn’t get a call they liked and threw their hands up in the air, that kind of thing,” she said. “I’ll never be that kind of person because you have to respect the person running the game.”
Baumhoer has a bulldog mentality, something nurtured by pitching coach Bill Crede. “He’s always helping me maintain that approach,” said Baumhoer. “No matter how often you go out there and fail, perseverance is always going to come over everything else. No matter how much you come out here, you can still have your bad days, but if you persevere, some bad days are good.”
Returning to the Final Four is part of the culture Schnieders began instilling when she took the job. This year is special because seven seniors from last season’s championship team are returning to Springfield.
“It feels good to know that we came back, and we’re almost the same team as last year,” she said. “We lost a few key players, but we still have what it takes to come back and win in this postseason again. The fact that we’ve made it back there is amazing. Back-to-back Final Four appearances haven’t been done in several years here at Fatima. It feels great that this team has banded together and been able to do that.”
Heisler added, “It would be great to make it back to the state championship game and bring it home again for our community because the support they give us is insane. I don’t think we would want it as much as we do if we didn’t have that support.”
Woody said she and her teammates are taking it one game at a time. “We have to win that first game to even get to the championship,” she said. “So, we’ll take it game by game and prepare for that one.”
Fatima is the top-ranked team in Class 3 and will face the fifth-ranked Oak Grove Lady Panthers (25-6) in the state semifinals at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Killian Softball Complex in Springfield.
In reaching the quarters, the Lady Comets knocked off Blair Oaks 4-1 on Robertson’s go-ahead HR in the bottom of the fourth.
Trailing 1-0, Woody (1-3) got the Lady Comets going with a lead-off double. Two batters later, Mia Kliethermes reached third on an error. Cunningham likewise reached on an error that plated Woody to tie the game.
With two aboard, Robertson (1-3, 3 RBI) sent the ball over the left field fence, scoring three to make it a 4-1 game.
Dickneite also had a single.
From the circle, Baumhoer allowed one earned run on four hits, with four strikeouts and three walks.