After years as an assistant under Darrell Davis, Fulton baseball coach Darren Masek finally got his chance to lead the club in Tuesday night's season opener against the Boonville Pirates.
Still, a whale of a crooked number can wash the novelty off the first day on the job real quick.
And unfortunately that was the case for Masek's Hornets. Fulton took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the first inning before a potent Boonville offense blew the game wide open - and then some - in a 19-1 North Central Missouri Conference rout of Fulton at Harley Park.
The game was called on the 10-run rule after 4 1/2 innings.
Senior center fielder Ryan Fritz scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Alex Thomas in the first inning to give the Hornets the early lead. But after that, the Fulton bats went tragically silent.
The Hornets had just two baserunners, by way of walks, over the next three innings against the Pirates (2-0, 1-0 NCMC). Fulton managed only two hits, both coming in the first.
"I thought our approach was good, we just didn't get hits at the plate," Masek said.
Boonville's bats were loud enough for both teams. The Pirates - two-time defending NCMC champions and a 2010 state quarterfinalist - scored seven of their nine first-inning runs with less than two outs and knocked two Fulton pitchers out of the game.
Senior starter Austin Harrison lasted just a third of an inning, allowing six earned runs on five hits.
"Austin threw very well this winter and threw well in the spring, and he usually does a good job hitting his spots," Masek said. "He just had a tough time getting his curveball over and they just sat on his fastball and got some hits.
Fritz, the Hornets' No. 1 starter, played in center while resting the lateral collateral ligament in his knee that he injured during wrestling season. The plan was to use Fritz for a couple of innings but as the gap grew wider, Masek held him back.
In all, the Hornets used six pitchers. Harrison gave way to senior Cody Atterberry, whose only out came when he struck out Pirates junior Zach Huckabey. Atterbery gave up three earned runs on four hits before being relieved by junior Burke Echlemeier, who got the final out.
"We're still trying to find out who our pitchers are," Masek said. "Coming off of last year, Ryan Fritz is obviously our number one but he's not 100-percent healthy, so we're trying to find some other guys."
Boonville pounded out 21 hits. The Pirates got a hit from 11 different players and six different players had two hits. Pirates senior pitcher Grant Davis threw four innings and gave up two hits while striking out eight to get the win.
"He has a very good fastball and we didn't realize how good his curveball was," Masek said. "Anytime you're down 9-1 after the first inning, it's tough to have good at-bats."
Davis helped his own cause in the the top of the fourth with a three-run home run to left-center off Fulton senior Ben Menke to spark a seven-run inning.
"We struggled early getting a second pitch over and had to rely on the fastball," Masek said. "They hit the fastball pretty hard and it kind of snowballed from there on us."
One inning before that, Pirates junior Jason Luster sent a one-out pitch from Echelmeier over the fence in center for a three-run homer to give Boonville a 12-1 lead. Davis and senior Cade Price both registered four hits for the Pirates.
"Our offense will get better than this because this is our first time out and we struggled," Masek said. "Boonville had a game under their belt by playing yesterday (Monday), and they struggled hitting the ball yesterday.
"But they didn't today, so I guess we were the medicine they needed to get healthy."
The Hornets' junior varsity beat Boonville 9-1. Echelmeier went 2-for-3, while Harrison scored two runs and Atteberry had two hits of his own. Junior pitcher Jake Matthews got the win for Fulton.
The Hornets open their home schedule against New Bloomfield at 5 p.m. Thursday at Hensley Field.