One win away from a totally unexpected trip to the Final Four, the Spoofhound baseball team ran out of postseason magic.
Facing a team with 14 more wins entering play, the Hounds fell behind in the first inning and never really recovered in a 7-2 season-ending loss to Fatima Wednesday in the Class 3 quarterfinals at Bearcat Field.
The Comets touched up Maryville senior starter Jonathan Baker for seven runs in the first four innings, building a lead of 7-1 the double-play prone Hounds couldn't overcome.
Maryville senior Ridge Yount hit into the team's fourth double-play to end the game in the top of the seventh, setting off a mound-storming celebration from Fatima.
The Comets (21-5) advanced to their first Final Four since the mid-90's and ended Maryville's longest postseason journey in 32 years. Maryville won its first playoff game since 1981 the night before at Richmond and finished 6-11.
Half of its six wins came from the start of district play on.
"It's crazy to think about," said Baker. "It's one of those things where you got to wait a while to think about it. Coach Houchin told us after the game you seniors don't know it yet, but you laid a lot of groundwork. I think what we did this year is something that's going to continue because I think the right pieces are in place."
A fast-starting team in each of its last two post-season wins, the Hounds had zero hits in the first three innings and faced a 5-0 deficit by the time they got their first one in the fourth.
Fatima senior starter Seth Lehmen limited a Hound offense that had averaged 13 runs over the past three games to just two over seven innings. Nine of his 21 outs were recorded on four pitches thanks to four double plays and a sweet pick-off at first.
Four others were on strikeouts.
"He had a little more jump on his fast ball and breaking ball than what we had seen last night at Richmond," said Marvyille head coach Matt Houchin. "It took us a while to get adjusted."
Hitless through the first three innings, Maryville broke out for eight hits between the fourth and six innings, all of which were singles. Baker and Yount had two hits apiece, while Eric Sigman, Jarret Cronin, Trent Dredge and Shane Owens each had one.
The Hounds scored single runs in the fourth and six, but their chances of turning those into much bigger innings were derailed by a pair of double plays.
"Double plays are always a rally-killer," said Fatima head coach Scott Kilgore. "Those were huge for us."
In his final start and first since early in the year, Baker gave up seven runs on 11 hits in four-plus innings before being lifted for Owens in the fifth.
Page 2 of 3 - The Comets scored two in the first, three two-out runs in the third and manufactured two more in the fourth.
Eight different Comets had at least one hit. Junior Ryan Mebruer and sophomore Sam Hager had two apiece.
"Tip your cap to them," said Houchin. "We made good pitches and they still put the ball in play. They were willing to slap it and loop it over the infield."
Fatima's two-run first inning followed a scoreless opening at-bat by the Hounds who had combined for 13 first inning runs in their last two games.
Maryville got its lead-off man Yount aboard, but he was quickly eliminated on a double-play grounder to second by Baker.
Each of Fatima's first two batters reached base in the bottom of the first. Their next one, hit a come-backer to Baker who initiated a run-down between third and home that eventually led to the first out. But in the process, both trail runners moved into scoring position.
Senior Patrick Schnieders drove in Fatima's first run with a lined single that got underneath Cronin's glove at short.
With runners at first and third, Fatima scored again on a successful double steal.
Junior Reid Kesel slid around the tag of Hound catcher Trent Dredge to give Fatima a 2-0 lead.
After a scoreless second, Mitchell Worthington drew a lead-off walk in the third, but was picked off at first on a swipe tag by Kesel.
The next two hitters struck out, leaving the Hounds hitless.
Kesel led off Fatima's half of the third with a triple over Tyler Tripp's head in center field.
He remained at third until Mebruer lined a sharp single through the infield to make it 3-0.
It was the first of three-run scoring hits with two outs.
Vogel lofted a single into the gap in left center that skipped past Tripp, allowing Mebruer to score from first.
Another bloop single to right by Hager made it 5-0.
"Coach Houchin says all the time, sometimes you got to have the ball bounce your way," said Baker. "Today, it just wasn't with those bloop hits."
Yount broke up Lehmen's no-hit bid with a lead-off single in the fourth. Baker followed with a single, and the Hounds had something going.
That was until Tripp smoked a ball to first that was gloved by Kesel and resulted in a double play.
The Hounds would get a run out of the inning when Fatima's second baseman mis-handled a routine grounder, allowing Yount to score from second.
Fatima's lead grew to 7-1 in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Schnieders and a two-out double down the left field line by Mebruer.
Page 3 of 3 - A lead-off bloop single by Hager in the fifth finished Baker. He was replaced by Owens who retired the next three Comet hitters.
Baker led off the sixth with his second hit. He moved to third on a line drive hit by Tripp and scored on a bloop down the right field line by Cronin.
The next batter, Dredge, lined into a double play back to Lehmen, and Mitchell Worthington grounded out to end the inning.
Owens pitched his second scoreless inning in the sixth, making him the third straight Hound reliever not to give up a run. He started Tuesday's win over Richmond.
For the fifth time in the game, Maryville got its lead-off man on in the seventh.
But a groundout by Jacob Cacek and another double-play ended it.
"(Fatima) definitely has the skill-set to take state, and I anticipate them doing that," said Baker. "We looked at our schedule this year and we've had a tough one. We can safely say that was one of the best teams we've played. They really showed it, putting the ball in play and fielding. It was one of those games."
One of seven seniors on the team, Baker watched the final moments of his memorable high school athletic career unfold from the on-deck circle.
After a senior year in which he won a state title in football and district titles in basketball and baseball while making all-state in the first two, Baker can now begin his transition to playing quarterback at Northwest Missouri State.
While that greatly excites him, he admits it will be tough to leave MHS behind.
"There will be times when I look back and really miss it, seeing all these underclassmen go through things," said Baker. "You definitely remember those fun times you had with your teammates. Those teammates you'll never have again. That's the biggest thing. My senior class has been awesome this year."