Fritz turns in stellar first start, Hornets top Wildcats

Things didn’t go quite according to plan for Fulton baseball coach Darren Masek.

Coming into Thursday’s home opener against the New Bloomfield Wildcats, Masek had an idea — specifically a pitch count — in mind for senior left-hander Ryan Fritz.

Fritz — still recovering from a slight tear in his lateral collateral ligament suffered during wrestling season — was not supposed to toss more than 70 pitches in his start against New Bloomfield, his first of the 2011 season.

Still, the plan didn’t go quite the way it was plotted. But unlike Tuesday night’s 19-1 drubbing at Boonville in the season opener, this was a pleasant veering from the game plan.

Although he went about 10 pitches over his allotted count, Fritz threw six efficient innings as Fulton pulled out a 5-2 win over the Wildcats at Hensley Field.

Fritz gave up two runs on six hits while striking out seven and issuing two walks to get the win.

“It makes a lot of difference when we get more than one pitch working and Ryan was very efficient, got a lot of quick outs and got some help with double plays,” Masek said. “I was looking for three or four innings out of him, but he was so efficient with his pitches that pitch count wasn’t a concern.”

After New Bloomfield second baseman Austin Pittman reached on a fielding error to open the game, Fritz needed just 10 pitches to strike out shortstop Kolby O’Dowd and third baseman Zach Rehagen.

With Fulton in front 3-0 going into the top half of the second, New Bloomfield center fielder Brendan Bailey sent a 1-0 offering from Fritz to deep center for a leadoff triple. Bailey was then joined on the basepaths when third baseman Zach Rehagen drew a four-pitch walk.

Fritz allowed the leadoff man to reach base in each of the first four innings.

“I’ve been pitching a long time and you have to stay in it and keep your head up,” said Fritz, who also went 2-for-3 with a run batted in. “When guys get on base, you got to get in the zone and just do it.”

Fritz settled down and just as soon as he was in a bit of a jam, he used his defense to work out of it. New Bloomfield left fielder Aaron Bedsworth hit into a double play two pitches later that scored Bailey and right fielder Brandon Pieter grounded out two pitches after that, leaving Fritz with a crooked number but relatively unscathed.

“He kept the ball down and he threw strikes, and didn’t let himself get in trouble,” New Bloomfield head coach Brandon Talbot said. “He had a couple of really hard-hit balls to the outfield and he just settled down and went back to work.”

Talbot’s club — in a stark contrast to its oppon

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