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      Weather or not

      At some point, Fatima and Hallsville will tangle in Class 3 semifinals.

      WITH THIS BASEBALL SEASON of rain-outs, cold-outs, snow-outs, cancellations and postponements, this is only fitting: The Final Four has been delayed by lousy weather."You're never really used to it, but this has been typical for us this spring," said Fatima coach Scott Kilgore, as the Comets (21-5) get set for a Class 3 semifinal clash with the Hallsville Indians (14-11) at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon.Game time is 7 p.m. Thursday ... maybe.The Comets were actually able to practice outside a couple times this week. But they had to question themselves as they took the field --- a glove or a fishing pole? --- as their infield in Westphalia was splattered with small ponds."You've got to do what you've got to do," Kilgore said. "Indoor practice doesn't do you much good this time of year. We just fought through it and got some things done."We can't control it, there's nothing we can do about it. But when we get a chance to play, I think these boys will be ready."The game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday. Now, it's pushed back to Thursday, when there's an 80 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms."I've never experienced anything like (this spring)," Kilgore said.Kilgore, 38, has been coaching baseball for 13 seasons, so "never" is quite a while.But it's nothing compared to his semifinal counterpart, Barry Koeneke. Koeneke, 61, has been a head baseball coach as long as Kilgore's been alive, 38 years."This spring has probably been the worst I can remember," the veteran Hallsville coach said. "I've experienced a lot of rain-outs during my career, but the snow we had this spring is a new element."So I guess it's only fitting we're having a Final Four like this. At least we're not getting snowed out."IIIWHEN THE COMETS and Indians finally do play, it will be a rematch. But you probably can't take much from the first game --- because it was the first game of the season, March 19, a 13-3 Fatima win in Hallsville.You can, however, take two things from that game --- the Comets' Seth Lehman hit a first-inning home run off Brendan Beatty, and the game was tied 3-3 when Beatty left after four innings.These are noteworthy because of what Beatty has done this season.Get these numbers --- the senior righthander is 5-1 with a 0.50 ERA. In 56.1 innings, he's struck out 87 and walked only 10. He hasn't allowed an earned run since April 12 and he's allowed just one home run this season --- to Lehman in the first inning of the first game."He's just a terrific kid, really smart," Koeneke said. Beatty has 3.89 GPA and wants to major in engineering. "On top of that, he's really baseball smart. "He's a gutty, hard-nosed player."The Indians also feature senior righthander Nathan Katz (3-1, 2.04 ERA), and junior righthanders C.J. Ashburn (3-3, two saves, 3.05) and Derrek Trickel (2-4, 2.33).Hallsville has allowed just five runs in its last four games, which includes two shutouts."Our pitching's been pretty solid all season," Koeneke said, "and that's what's gotten us to this point."The Comets counter with the 1-2 punch of senior righthanders Patrick Schnieders (6-0, 1.52 ERA, has thrown two straight shutouts) and Lehman (7-2, 3.55)."We have a lot of confidence in both of those young men," Kilgore said.Offensively for the Comets, it starts once again with Schnieders. He's batting .531 --- 531! --- with four home runs, and his 43 hits this season ties the school record set by Joe Crede.In addition, Lehman is batting .380, Ryan Mebruer is at .373 and Reid Kesel is hitting .365.So while the pitching may be a wash, Fatima seems to have a decided edge at the plate. And Koeneke knows as much."Our offense has been our shortcoming," Koeneke said. "And Fatima, the heart of their order can crush the ball like crazy."They are so well-coached and they have so much talent. Schnieders and Lehman are both top-notch pitchers and their defense is solid. It's a scary team."Even if we play our best, we'll be lucky to hang with them."The Comets, meanwhile, are putting an exclamation point on an amazing season for the athletic program --- seven district titles and four appearances in the Final Four, including the state-championship volleyball team last fall."It's been unbelievable," Kilgore said. "It's great for the school, it's great for the community of Westphalia ... it's great for everyone involved."III FATIMA HAS ENJOYED some eye-popping success the last nine months --- actually, this run of his success has lasted a few years.But then there's Koenke, who's run of success is approaching four decades --- all at Hallsville."I'm very familiar with him," Kilgore said. "He actually helped me out and coached me in Missouri baseball camps. He's extremely dedicated and for that, you have to really respect him."You have to hand it to him ... his success speaks for itself."Koeneke has won three state championships and this is his seventh trip to the Final Four with the Indians. On May 6, he won his 600th game --- in his 1,000th game as a head coach."Coaching in 1,000 games was probably a bigger deal to me, just because I've been able to do what I love," said Koeneke, who's now sitting on 605 wins. "I'm still getting to do what I enjoy, and that's trying to be a good influence on some young men's lives."Trying to teach character is even more important to me than trying to get kids to play well. I've had a lot of great kids to work with and a really supportive community."Beatty's father, Monte, played on Hallsville's 1987 state championship team. "I've probably had about 10 or 11 father-son combinations, so far," said Koeneke, who's truly a "young" 61. "Baseball and Hallsville are in my blood."As long as I've got a pulse, I want to keep doing it."Now, it's just a question of when he'll coach his next game. With good chances of rainThursday, Friday and Saturday, well ... we'll see you next week?"That," Koeneke said with a laugh, "would be interesting if that happens. Let's just hope it doesn't."