Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Four innings and clinging to a two-run lead against the visiting Eldon Mustangs, things had gotten just a little too tight for Fulton Hornets head coach Darren Masek.
The Mustangs had just hung four runs on senior relief pitcher Cody Atterbery in the top half of the fifth to make it a 7-5 Fulton lead.
It was at that point when Masek imparted a pretty simple message to his team as it picked up the sticks for its portion of the fifth.
“We got out to 5-0 lead, but then we kind of lost focus and concentration,” Masek said. “We had a little talking-to before that last inning about finishing things.”
Seems as though the words stuck. Fulton proceeded to tack on eight more runs, sending the Hornets to a 15-5, run-rule win over Eldon at Hensley Field on Tuesday night. Fulton produced its 15 runs on 13 hits and cashed in on some timely miscues by the Mustangs.
“Eldon did make some mistakes and you’re going to do that on a cold night,” Masek said. “They did help us out a bit, but I was pleased with how we hit the ball and it was better than we had in the past.”
Offensively, the game started out promising enough for the Hornets (2-1), a team still trying to find its groove from the plate. After Fulton senior starter Austin Harrison sat down the first three Eldon batters to open the game, junior courtesy runner Jake Abbott crossed the plate via a one-out double to left off the bat of senior second baseman Alex Thomas to put the Hornets on top.
Senior center fielder Ryan Fritz then took advantage of a wild pitch thrown by Eldon freshman left-hander Sammy Lincoln to make it 2-0 and freshman shortstop Dalton Horstmeier launched a 1-2 offering from Lincoln into deep left or a double to score Thomas.
Fulton roughed up Lincoln for five runs on three hits in the first inning, concluding his night early and saddling him with the loss.
On Harrison’s end, things went drastically better. After getting nicked up for five runs by Boonville in his last start — a 19-1 Fulton loss in the March 22 season opener — Harrison was downright economical with his pitches this time around.
In getting the win Tuesday night, Harrison gave up one run on four hits in four innings. He only struck out one but used his defense to his advantage, forcing the Mustangs (1-2) into six groundball outs.
“He threw a lot of strikes, but he needs to command the curveball a little bit more because he’s still a one-pitch pitcher,” Masek said. “He didn’t throw a lot of pitches, though, and got ahead in the count, making Eldon swing at some pitches.”
Quite a few of those balls rolled to Horstmeier. He corralled four of those six assisted outs, but his impact on the game came at the plate. Hortsmeier reached base in all four of his plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with two RBIs, falling a home run short of the cycle.
“He’s capable of hitting the ball and that’s why he’s in the lineup,” Masek said. “He may be a freshman, but he’s one of the better players on our team.”
While Horstmeier did not put one over the fence, his teammate — senior right fielder Nick Christensen — did. Eldon junior reliever Ryan Kliethermes left the first pitch up and Christensen sent it over the left-field fence, just inside the foul pole, for a two-run shot in the fifth to put the Hornets up 11-5.
The game eventualy ended when it reached the 10-run rule after a single up the middle from senior left fielder Jordan Reynolds scored Fritz.
“I was surprised that we came up with that many runs, but we talk about winning each inning and we didn’t win those last two particular innings,” Masek said. “But the kids responded.”
The Hornets host North Central Missouri Conference foe Kirksville at 5 p.m. Thursday at Hensley Field.