St. Anthony High School's chances for a regular-season National Trail Conference championship evaporated in the seventh inning of Tuesday's game at Paul Smith Field.

Visiting Stewardson-Strasburg (11-3, 8-1 NTC) scored four runs —three unearned — in the top half of the final inning against the Bulldogs, giving the Comets a 4-2 baseball victory and a tie with Teutopolis atop the final league standings.

T-town finished its regular season conference slate with an 8-0 win over Brownstown, giving the Wooden Shoes an identical 8-1 NTC record.

Even though the Shoes defeated the Comets 2-0 in their league game earlier this fall, the NTC baseball crown cannot be decided via head-to-head tiebreaker, which means the two clubs will meet Thursday at Paul Smith Field for a one-game title matchup.

"That's why you play all seven innings," said Stew-Stras coach Mark Wascher. "We beat an awfully good team. (St. Anthony) did a lot of things well, and for most of the game we couldn't get anything going."

St. Anthony started Greg Schmidt on the mound, and for six innings the left-handed senior was nearly unhittable.

Schmidt needed just 68 pitches to get through those first six frames, allowing nothing but an infield single to Gabe Wascher and a second-inning error in terms of baserunners.

The seventh was an inning that'll likely cost the Bulldogs some sleep, however, after entering the frame with a 2-0 lead.

Clayton Brandt took the very first pitch, a curveball that never broke, right in the back for a leadoff baserunner.

After Luke Rincker flew out to center, Jaden Widdersheim chopped an 0-2 single over third base before Wascher loaded the bases with a clean single through short.

Nick Ferris worked a full count and fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before watching a called third strike on the inside corner for the second out, but Zach Rincker drove in the Comets' first run when another curveball spun right into his helmet on an 0-1 count.

Micah Slifer, who struggled in his previous plate appearance, fell behind 0-2 before ripping a one-hopper to Patrick Schutzbach at third base.

The ball caromed off the Bulldogs' defender and two runs crossed before the play was over. Stew-Stras tacked on another as Slifer intentionally got picked off first base, got into a rundown and was called safe on a close play at first as Z. Rincker stole home for the fourth score.

"Schmidt threw well, but I'd imagine he started to tire a bit in that seventh inning," remarked Wascher. "I think we're a good team, and we didn't quit. A lot of teams would've folded up the tent, but we didn't — and neither did St. Anthony."

The Bulldogs did indeed manage a couple two-out baserunners against Jaden Widdersheim, the Comets' ace in to close after six solid innings out of starter Chris Koontz.

Schmidt ripped an 0-1 pitch right at first baseman Lucas Helton, however, and Helton put it away to end the game.

Even though St. Anthony took a lead into the seventh and was within a strike of its own spot in that playoff with T-town, first-year coach Kenny Miller didn't seem to believe his club's play as of late merited any more than the third-place finish for which it'll be forced to settle.

"We didn't deserve to win that game," said Miller. "I can't fault our effort, but we are lacking discipline and concentration and it has cost us a lot of baserunners over the last three games. We won't win another ballgame until it's fixed."

The Bulldogs had two runners picked off first base in the game, and another thrown out trying to advance from second on a grounder to the third-base side of shortstop.

Neither one of St. Anthony's runs were earned. Schmidt led off the fourth with a line single to center after also hitting one on the screws for a line out in the first, and courtesy runner Jacob Schuette took second on Austin Hayes' 0-2 base hit through first base.

Mitchell Dasenbrock laid down a great sacrifice bunt between third base and the mound, and it ended up getting a run home with Koontz overthrew first base after a bare-handed pickup.

With runners on second and third, the Bulldogs took a shot at a squeeze bunt with Marty Jansen at the plate, but he popped it back to Koontz and the Comets' pitcher fired to third for a double play — Dasenbrock wandered well off second base as well, and the sequence was an eyelash shy of resulting in a triple play as he slid safely back.

"I don't regret that call," said Miller. "I regret that we didn't execute.

"Our pitching and defense have been pretty good, but our offense has struggled lately. We've been extra-aggressive on the bases because of that, but that doesn't mean the outs we've run into haven't been inexcusable."

That extra-aggressive baserunning netted St. Anthony its other run in the fifth.

Matt Hecht led off with a double down the first base line and took third on Patrick Schutzbach's sacrifice bunt. Justin Schutzbach went down swinging, Hecht scored on a straight steal of home with Alex Brown at the dish — another one of the many close calls over the course of the afternoon.

Brown reached on an error and courtesy runner Ben Hecht took second when Schmidt walked. Austin Hayes — who was 3-for-3 for nearly half the Bulldogs' hits — appeared to hit an RBI single to right, but B. Hecht was called out on a close play at the plate to end the innings.

Schmidt ended up with nine strikeouts and no walks in a three-hitter, but suffered another tough loss after losing to Teutopolis Friday.

As a result, St. Anthony will open NTC tourney play at home Monday as the No. 3 seed against No. 6 Neoga.

Widdersheim seems set to go in Stew-Stras' big game with T-town; Koontz struck out eight and walked three in his six innings, following up six innings of shutout ball in last week's win against Dieterich last week. In that game, he called upon as a reliever in the very first inning.

At Paul Smith Field

STEW-STRAS

ab--r--h--bi


Thomas cf--3--0--0--0

Brandt c--2--1--0--0

L.Rincker 3b--3--0--0--0

Widdersheim ss--3--1--1--0

G.Wascher 2b--2--1--2--0

Ferris rf--3--0--0--0

Z.Rincker lf--2--1--0--1

Slifer dh--3--0--0--0

Koontz p--0--0--0--0

Helton 1b--3--0--0--0

TOTALS--24--4--3--1

ST. ANTHONY

ab--r--h--bi


M. Hecht ss--4--1--1--0

P.Schutzbach 3b--3--0--0--0

J.Schutzbach 1b--2--0--0--0

Brown c--3--0--1--0

B. Hecht cr--0--0--0--0

Schmidt p--3--0--1--0

Ja.Schuette cr--0--1--0--0

Hayes lf--3--0--3--0

Dasenbrock 2b--2--0--0--0

Jansen cf--3--0--1--0

Schultz dh--2--0--0--0

Koester rf--0--0--0--0

Jo.Schuette ph--1--0--0--0

TOTALS--26--2--7--0

Stew-Stras
--000--000--4--—--4

St. Anthony
--000--110--0--—--2

E — L. Rincker, G. Wascher, Koontz, Helton, P. Schutzbach 2. LOB — Stew-Stras 2, St. Anthony 9. DP — Stew-Stras 1, St. Anthony 1. 2B — M. Hecht. SB — Z. Rincker, M. Hecht. SAC — G. Wascher, P. Schutzbach, Dasenbrock.

PITCHING SUMMARY

IP--H--R--ER--BB--SO

Stew-Stras


Koontz (W)--6--6--2--0--3--8

Widdersheim (S)--1--1--0--0--0--1

St. Anthony

Schmidt (L)--7--3--4--1--0--9

WP — Koontz. HBP — Brandt (by Schmidt), Z. Rincker (by Schmidt), J. Schutzbach (by Widdersheim). T — 1:43. U — Wise (HP), Bear (B).

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