Fairfield’s varsity baseball team experienced all of the emotions Monday night at the middle school fields when they split a key Southeast Conference doubleheader after winning by mercy-rule in game one and before blowing a four-run lead in the final inning of game two.
“I think that when the boys came to the park, they were pretty confident and I felt good going into the doubleheader,” said head coach Josh Allison. “We got up early and kind of kept things rolling, even into the second game. We were hitting the ball hard and I think the issue tonight was just that our pitchers didn’t throw strikes. I don’t know how many free passes they had yet, but it was way too many because they will come back to bite you every time.”
Officially there were six walks in game one and nine in game two. The Trojans also hit several of the Demons with pitches that sent them to the base paths.
Washington started the scoring with a run in the first, but FHS responded with a 10 spot that was way more than enough to cover the spread. The Trojans added a single run in the second and third before three more in the fourth sealed the stats in Fairfield’s favor and while the Demons added a run in the fifth, it was esthetic at best as Fairfield won 15-2.
Amongst the many highlights were four home runs from the Trojans senior 6-7-8 hitters, Kosta Papazoglou, Austin Simpson and Tristin Waugh, respectively.
“Before the game, I was taking batting practice and not doing well,” explained Simpson. “I told coach I would step out and take a break and come back for another round and it paid off because the ball looked like a watermelon out there.”
K-Pap had a slightly different experience.
“My home run pitch wasn’t really ideal,” said the recent graduate. “It was passed my nipples, outside and high. It looked good coming in and it just cut away from the center and I just got lucky.”
Sitting in the eight spot can be daunting, but that’s why T-Waugh is there. That’s his role in the Trojans offense, while he mans the hot corner on defense.
“[My home run] was after Simpson and Kosta and I was thinking, ‘Why can’t I be like these role models?!’ No. 23 (Simpson) and 17 (Papazoglou) are the big dogs around here, hitting dingers like it’s nothing. I just saw a pitch I liked and sort of hopped it up over the fence.”
The three amigos combined to go 5-8 in the opener with four home runs, a double, nine RBI, eight runs scored and they each drew a walk as well.
“I’m trying to have as much fun as possible,” said Waugh, “but Coach Allison reminded us that we still need to be serious when we are having fun. That’s what we’re trying to do, not be so serious.”
Papazoglou also started the game on the mound and went four innings, allowing one run on one hit with five walks and six strikeouts.
Classmate Brittan Bowman pitched an inning of relief, allowing one run on two hits with a walk and a strikeout.
Final score: Fairfield 15 Washington 2.
“I think in between games, they got too loose,” said Allison. “I told them after the game that they have to stay focused for game two because I guarantee nobody is going to roll over for you. We gave up those early runs and I said ‘There it is” and although we responded, we didn’t finish the job so lessons learned tonight for sure.”
As mentioned by the Trojan skipper, the Demons scored two runs in the first and although FHS platted a run of their own in the home-half of the inning, Washington extended their lead to 3-1 in the third.
Fairfield regained the lead for what they expected to be the remainder of the contest with five scores in the bottom of the inning, but again Washington chipped away and it was 6-4 going into the bottom of the fourth. FHS added two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth to hold a five-run advantage and needing just six more outs. The Demons scored one in the sixth and then seven in the seventh to surprise the home team and steal a conference win.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Washington’s Luke Turner hit a sharp ground ball directly at shortstop Cooper Drish, unfortunately, the plummeting temperatures soaked the infield grass and the ball died on it’s way to Coop.
“The grass was pretty wet, but I still should have made the throw,” suggests the senior starter.
The throw was in the dirt and Simpson was unable to scoop it and two runs scored, making it 10-9 Washington after six straight batters reached safely.
Simpson and Drish each had two hits in the night cap to lead the Trojans with Austin adding two more home runs to his total.
“Honestly, I can’t remember all of them but I was seeing the ball really well,” said Simpson.
“You try keeping your mind the same because you can’t focus on the past or you’ll never succeed in the future. My mentality is the same. Hit a line drive, get on any way you can and hunt the fastball.”
On the hill, Jackson Weaton started and left after three innings trailing 3-1 but was set up for the win with five Trojan runs in the inning he departed.
Senior Caden Jones tossed the next 3 2/3 and allowed six runs off five hits with five walks and two strikeouts.
Bowman came in to try to save FHS who was clinging to the lead, but the damage was done. While he recorded the one out he needed, three unearned runs he inherited came across in the big rally inning.
“We’ll get them next time,” said a frustrated Simpson who self-edited what he really wanted to say.
Fairfield is now 8-3 overall and 7-3 in the league with Washington sitting in second with a 9-4 mark in the Southeast Conference.
“We need to win out the rest of our conference games, just to be sure,” added Waugh. “We should have won two games, but we put ourselves in a bad situation and we’re going to have to live with it. Right now the main focus is winning the conference and then after that seeing if we can make it to Principal Park.”
Fairfield travels to Wellman today for a JV/varsity doubleheader that begins at 5:30 with the youngsters going first unless rain pops into the forecast, in which case, the nine seniors and their junior buddies will face the Golden Hawks first. Sunday is the big day for the guys when they play at Busch Stadium in St. Louis beginning at 8 a.m.
“As a team we wanted to go to Top Golf but Coach Allison said no because he doesn’t want our swings to get messed up,” explained an excited but reserved Waugh. “He didn’t want us on the third floor because he thought we might die so we are looking at go-karting somewhere or some bumper cars. Something a little safer.”