COLUMBIA — The Fr. Tolton Catholic Regional High School baseball team is in the midst of its second season. The Trailblazers are a particularly young and inexperienced group compared to other high school teams in the area.
In the first few innings Wednesday night, the youthful inconsistency of the squad was apparent.
Two Tolton infielders stood confused as a foul pop fly dropped between them. A pitcher mistakenly cut off a rocket throw from center field to home that would have prevented a run. Ground balls bounced out of fielders' gloves and batters passed on hittable pitches at the plate.
These were a few of the growing pains of the young squad. But, like anyone in adolescence is told, the pain is temporary. It means you are growing.
As the game pressed on, the growth showed, and Tolton took down Sweet Springs High School 13-5 to improve to 3-5 on the year.
"You make an error, you make a mistake, you throw a ball in the field, we've been through it last year," Tolton coach Mike Johnson said. "And now everybody can see the progress."
In between the first and second innings, Johnson urged his players to pick it up and stop playing scared. The Trailblazers responded with eight runs in the second. Sophomore Tate Cooper, who finished the night 3-for-3 at the plate with 6 RBIs — a Tolton record — sparked the run with a two-out bases-clearing double.
"I think it's one of the best games ... probably the best game I've had in a Blazer uniform," Cooper said.
Cooper faced the exact same situation — two outs with the bases loaded — again in the fourth inning. He replicated his second inning showing with another bases-clearing double.
"Bases loaded is a very nice thing to have with a hitter," Cooper said with a confident grin. "Especially when I saw they brought the infield in."
Johnson wasn't happy with the way his team played defensively early in the game. He said he understands that he was pitching a freshman against seniors, but Johnson said he won't lower his standards for his team.
In the top of the fourth inning, Johnson made a pitching change. Rangy freshman Adam Schaumburg took the mound for the Trailblazers.
Schaumburg, who also had three RBIs, closed out the game without letting in one earned run. He located his two-seam fastball and curveball with consistency. The freshman is not a hard-thrower, so precision is important.
He finished with seven strikeouts, including three in the final inning.
"Later in games, instead of throwing hard you just need to throw to spots," he said.
Schaumburg, while confident at the mound, hasn't had the best luck at the plate so far this year. But when he smacked a three RBI double to center field in the second inning, he saw growth in his game.
A toothy smile revealing the freshman's braces spread across his face. "I haven't had many hits this season, so that felt really good."
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