Mexico jolts Hornets on bizarre play, wins Fulton title

It was a “blink and you’ll miss it” type of play, according to Fulton Hornets head coach Darren Masek.

Mexico junior shortstop Tyler Bracht made a heads-up scamper from third to home and beat the throw from second in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Bulldogs tripped Fulton 3-2 in the championship of the 20th-annual Fulton Tournament at the high school athletic complex on Friday night.

“I looked down, I looked up and the guy was almost at home plate,” Masek said.

With the score tied at 2-all going to the bottom of the seventh, Fulton senior starter Dalton Horstmeier surrendered back-to-back walks to sophomore second baseman Scott Speaks and Bracht to open the inning.

Mexico junior starter Cody Creed reached on a fielder’s choice, forcing Speaks at third and allowing Bracht to advance to second. Senior catcher Frank Nickoley then popped a 1-0 pitch to Hornets sophomore right fielder Zach Franklin for the second out.

Bracht tagged up and raced to third, though some in the Fulton infield believed he might have left second before the catch was made. Franklin threw the ball in from the outfield and a Hornet infielder went to tag second “casually,” according to Masek. Bracht — who was responsible for all of Mexico’s scoring — continued running as he beat the throw to Fulton freshman catcher Isaiah Pani for the winning run.

“I think we had some people saying the kid left early from second base and I think the infielders got caught up in the moment,” Masek said. “Just got caught napping a little bit.”

It was the third run — and second unearned — given up by Horstmeier, who threw a complete game in taking the loss. He scattered five hits, struck out 10 and walked four.

“We had a heck of a pitcher on the mound and even he, Dalton, needs some help, and we didn’t give him enough help tonight,” Masek said.

The Hornets (12-10) put up both of their runs in the top of the first. Senior designated hitter Paul Books provided an RBI single to right to drive in Horstmeier with the game’s first run.

Senior first baseman Tyler Echelmeier hit a one-out single to shallow center to load the bases and junior shortstop Blake Thompson drew a bases-loaded walk to force home Pani and put Fulton up 2-0. Creed froze Franklin and sophomore third baseman Trenton Clines on back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.

Bracht made it a one-run game in the third when he scored after Nickoley reached on a throwing error by Thompson. Bracht then tied the game in the fifth, bolting home from third on a passed ball with two outs.

After Echelmeier grounded out to start Fulton’s sixth, Thompson and Franklin singled on consecutive pitches. Clines worked a full count before drawing a walk to load the bases, but sophomore Tristan Steffens struck out and Horstmeier grounded into a force play at second to stall the Hornets’ threat.

“They’re opportunities missed; first of all, Creed is a good pitcher and he’s going to make pitches to get out of innings,” Masek said. “What’s disappointing is that we had bases loaded with any runner in scoring position with less than two outs, where it doesn’t even take a base hit to score a run.”

Senior Gavin Jones relieved Creed in the seventh and retired Fulton in order, before Bracht delivered the decisive run as Mexico won for the first time in three meetings with the Hornets this season.

Jones recorded the victory, but Creed — who has lost twice to Fulton — allowed two earned runs on five hits, struck out eight and walked three.

Thompson finished 1-for-2 for the Hornets, while Echelmeier, Franklin and Steffens were each 1-for-3 and Books was 1-for-4. Fulton committed three errors as its three-game winning streak was snapped.

“It’s always difficult to beat a team three times, especially a team the caliber of Mexico,” Masek said. “I thought defensively we played pretty decent. … Made a few mistakes tonight, a few too many — more than Mexico made — and it ended up costing us the ballgame.”

The Hornets and Bulldogs could wind up seeing each other again when the Class 4, District 8 Tournament begins next Saturday in Boonville.

“We’ve won two out of three, but we may have to win three out of four,” Masek said.

Fulton closes its regular season at South Callaway at 5 p.m. Monday.

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