Continuing the offensive efficiency from their two NCMC wins last week, the Fulton Hornets managed to put 12 runners on base in Friday night's conference game against the Hannibal Pirates.
Fulton scored nine runs with 10 baserunners in last Tuesday's 9-3 win at Moberly. The Hornets then exploded for seven runs on 11 hits - with 15 runners - in Thursday night's 7-3 win over rival Mexico.
So the hits and the walks were there on Friday night. However, much to the dismay of Fulton head coach Darren Masek, the runs didn't immediately follow. Especially when they were needed most.
The Hornets' two-game winning streak came to a frustrating end with a 4-3 loss to Hannibal at Hensley Field. Fulton, which collected seven hits, stranded eight and had four others erased on base-running mishaps ranging from failed steal attempts to groundballs caroming off the heels of runners.
"The first thing we say you have to do is you have to be focused on what the situation is," Masek said. "I can't say why we're a bad base-running team at this point but we are and we're going to get better, but at this time it's hurting us."
The Hornets (4-4, 2-3 North Central Missouri Conference) had their leadoff batter reach base in each of the first four innings. Junior designated hitter Jake Abbott led off the bottom of the first with a single to right field but was caught stealing second just a couple of pitches later.
Freshman shortstop Dalton Horstmeier led the second off with a single and junior catcher Jake Nickelson reached on a two-out fielder's choice. But a groundball from senior first baseman Dayton Depping that seemed destined to split the hole between first and second base clipped Nickelson's heel to end the inning.
"We lost four runners on the bases and you can't do that, especially in a one-run ballgame," Masek said. "We kind of gave them life tonight and they took advantage of it, and we couldn't quite overcome it."
Hannibal (3-4, 2-2 NCMC), meanwhile, produced key runs in key spots. Pirates senior right fielder Ethan Hudelson sent the first pitch he saw from Hornets senior starter Cody Attebery to left for a one-out double in the first. Senior shortstop Paul Trenhaile took the very next pitch to the warning track in center for another double to score Hudelson and give Hannibal the early lead.
Attebery settled down after that, sitting down Hannibal's next six batters in order, striking out two while only throwing 29 pitches.
"Cody threw well tonight," Masek said. "He threw a couple of rough pitches there in the first inning to the number three and four hitters, but he settled down and pitched well after that."
Attebery then received some help from Fulton's bats, which woke up for two runs in the third. Abbott and senior center fielder Ryan Fritz drew walks to open up the inning, but Abbott was picked off at first.
Pirates sophomore starter Brandon Scott then plunked Fulton senior second baseman Alex Thomas on the top of the helmet and he ended up at second after Horstmeier's two-out single scored Fritz. Thomas eventually crossed the plate on a wild pitch to give the Hornets a 2-1 lead.
But as soon as it seemed Attebery was settled in on the hill, Masek went to the bullpen and brought in senior right-hander Andy Herigon in the fourth.
"Well, we're still early in the season and we got a lot of guys who can pitch, so we're trying to find out who we can count on later in the season," Masek said. "Cody hadn't pitched much, so we wanted to go two or three innings with him tonight."
Trenhaile - who went 3-for-3 - hit Herigon's first pitch down the third-base line for a single. He then scored when Pirates senior catcher Chris Gregory sent Herigon's 0-1 offering over the fence in right for a two-run homer to put Hannibal back on top 3-2.
Hannibal added its final run in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk from Herigon.
Herigon took the loss, giving up two runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out one.
"We're still searching to see who our top three or four pitchers are going to be," Masek said. "We know who our number one is (Fritz), but we still don't know who our number two, three and four pitchers are, so we're still trying to figure that out."
Hannibal, meanwhile, rode the arm of Scott. He worked out of jams in the fourth, sixth and seventh inning as Fulton put the tying run on base in all three innings.
Horstmeier went 2-for-4 with two RBI, the second coming when he lined out to center to score senior right fielder Nick Christensen in the fifth to make it 4-3.
But Scott used groundballs and popouts to work out of difficult innings and earn the complete-game win. He scattered seven hits while both striking out and walking four.
Christensen had a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh and the Hornets twice sent the potential winning run to the plate twice in Thomas and Horstmeier.
But Thomas struck out swinging after being ahead in the count 3-0 and Horstmeier's shot to right challenged Pirates junior Grant Taylor but ultimately fell into his glove to end the game.
"His (Scott's) curveball was effective and his fastball was a pitch I thought we'd be able to hit well, but I thought he pitched fine and I wasn't surprised he went the distance," Masek said.
Fulton (5-2) rallied for five runs in the bottom of the fifth to edge Hannibal 8-7 in the junior varsity game. Nickelson pitched three scoreless innings to log the win.
The Hornets travel to Wardsville to face Blair Oaks at 5 p.m. Monday.
"We've got to come out ready to play on Monday," Masek said. "We're showing signs of improvement, but at the same time we took a step back tonight."