The Fulton Hornets' top half of the third inning in the field read like the numerical equivalent of a boulder collecting moss on its way down the hill. Three runs. Three errors. No hits.
In fact, in Thursday night's North Central Missouri Conference game against the visiting Kirskville Tigers, Fulton didn't allow a single base hit in seven innings.
"Errors are going to happen in high school baseball," Hornets head coach Darren Masek said. "I was a little disappointed that we didn't get our heads back in the game a little quicker and we let things snowball on us."
The Hornets clawed back from the three-run deficit but were unable to close it out in the end, falling to Kirksville 3-2 at Hensley Field. Senior starter Ryan Fritz and senior reliever Nick Christensen combined for a no-hitter, striking out eight of the 24 batters they faced.
"You can't ask for anymore from Ryan," Masek said. "He came out and threw great, and I was pleased with Nick Christensen. He's a kid we're going to have to count on this year and if he can throw like he did tonight, we'll be in good shape."
Fritz struck out seven, including the first five batters he faced.
"Ryan started off fantastic and even in the bullpen session, I knew he had it tonight," Hornets senior catcher Brandon Hammerstone said. "He gave us a good chance to win and we just didn't back him up."
Fritz walked Kirksville sophomore designated hitter Wyatt Anderson to start the top of the third and almost picked Anderson off at first with an 0-1 count on junior shortstop Ryan Gross. It was a play that a few in the Hornets' dugout felt - in hindsight - could have changed the game.
Gross then bunted the ball down toward Fulton junior third baseman Burke Echelmeier, but his throw to senior first baseman Dayton Depping wasn't properly scooped up. The ball darted toward the Kirksville dugout and sent Anderson all the way around to score and allowed Gross to advance all the way to third.
"I don't think it put us down at all," said Christensen, who went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI. "We just didn't make the plays, but we bounced back and didn't have an error the rest of the game; but when you have errors, bad things happen."
That half an inning ended up being an abberation for the Hornets (2-2, 0-2 NCMC), who faced the minimum batters from the fourth inning on.
Christensen got the first of Fulton's two extra-base hits in the bottom of the fourth when he sent the first pitch from Kirksville senior pitcher Joe Kling into deep right for a triple. Christensen then scored on a wild pitch by Kling to cut Kirksville's lead to 3-1.
Kling painted the outside of the plate and changed speeds in his 5 1/3 innings of work. He struck out five and gave up two runs in getting the win.
"He was starting off early and tagging that outside corner, and I made an adjustment and the first time I saw that fastball on the outside corner, I wanted to tag it and that's what happened," Christensen said of the triple.
Christensen, who was in right field before taking the mound in the sixth, put a charge in an offering from Tigers senior reliever Keaton Farnsworth in the bottom of the inning. His one-out double scored senior second baseman Alex Thomas to get the Hornets as close as they would come.
The Hornets out-hit the Tigers (5-0, 4-0) by six, but left that many runners on the base paths.
"We talked about getting on the plate and going the other way, and we started doing that in the third or fourth inning," Masek said. "But sometimes you have to tip your hat to the pitcher."
Farnsworth let Fulton freshman pinch-hitter Dalton Horstmeier lead off the inning with an infield single in the last of the seventh to represent the tying run. But he sat down the top of the Hornets' order to ice the game and keep Kirksville undefeated.
And to think it all could have been salvaged with a slightly better third frame.
"If you throw strikes and you don't throw a lot of walks, you have a chance to win a baseball game," Christensen said. "We had one bad inning with three errors and that was the difference."
Fulton dropped the junior varsity game 4-1.
The Hornets host North Callaway at 5 p.m. today at Hensley Field.