MEXICO, Mo. -- The Fulton Hornets won the North Central Missouri Conference title outright for the first time (third overall, first in 22 years), and it came in coach Jacob Lorentzen's first season at the helm.
"This is history; that's what I told them," Lorentzen said. "These guys are in the record books now forever, so. And that's a peace of mind to have for sure."
Getting it done at its rival's field, Fulton beat the Mexico Bulldogs 4-2 Friday.
As he's done many times in the Highway 54 rivalry, no matter the sport, the Hornets' Walker Gohring led them to victory.
Gohring drove home the game-deciding run in the sixth for the second time this week. Fulton wouldn't have a chance at winning the conference if he didn't give the Hornets the lead during Tuesday's game versus Moberly.
Fulton, of course, beat the Spartans Tuesday, setting the Hornets up to make history at their fiercest rival's place.
Down 2-1 heading into the sixth inning, Fulton struggled offensively, unlike their last meeting against Mexico.
Knowing the significance of winning the contest, Fulton's bats came to life, scoring four runs on three hits, two walks and two errors while tallying 10 plate appearances.
The Hornets' Ethan Burt led the sixth off with a walk, then Ethan Milius reached first on a throwing error by Mexico's shortstop.
After Bulldogs starter Landyn Kleinsorge recorded his third and final strikeout, Fulton tied the game at 2 during the next at-bat.
Hornets star Dusty Hagens approached the dish, hitting the ball to second and reaching first as Mexico's second baseman failed to field it. The play didn't stop there, however.
Burt easily scored from third, then Milius hustled home to tie the game for Fulton as Hagens advanced to second on the throw. Stoked about what transpired, Milius pumped his fist, shouting "yes" as the Hornets cleared the dugout in celebration.
Gohring, a Fulton athlete with experience coming up in the clutch, did so again -- it came in what's likely his last Highway 54 rivalry game in any sport for the Hornets.
Kleinsorge hurled the ball to the Hornets' Gohring, tattering the pitch to deep left for an RBI double.
"I think it was time," Lorentzen said. "We were picking up the ball pretty good tonight. We just didn't find any holes. So, it's finally nice to see a couple of those not find the glove."
Not only did Fulton go up 3-2, but Gohring ended Kleinsorge's outing in an otherwise stellar start before the sixth.
Earning the loss, Bulldogs starter Kleinsorge allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and a walk while striking out three in 5⅓ innings.
"He was throwing a lot of junk and, again, keeping us off balance," Lorentzen said. "Just never quite got in a rhythm until they, like I said, they kind of gave us a chance to get into a rhythm there. But they were pitching well."
Austin Maxwell replaced Kleinsorge on the bump for Mexico, and he had a rocky start to his outing.
Justin Case came to the plate for the Hornets and the Fulton catcher sent home an insurance run on his groundball single that went past first and into right. It was the final run-scoring play of the contest, and the Hornets' last RBI in NCMC play this season.
Fulton had four more plate appearances in the sixth before the Bulldogs finally got out of an inning they wanted to forget.
Gohring ensured Mexico couldn't have an inning like Fulton, as he allowed no runs on a hit and hit-by-pitch while striking out three between the sixth and seventh innings.
Earning the complete-game victory, Gohring threw 105 pitches, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out nine in seven innings of work.
"He was pretty masterful," Lorentzen said. "He only had a couple of times there where he had a little bit of hiccups. But he was really hitting all around the plate all night, keeping guys off balance. And he's gonna lock it in."
The Bulldogs scored a run apiece in the third and fourth for their only runs of the contest.
In the third, Drew DeMint reached home as Andrew Runge grounded into a fielder's choice at shortstop. During that same bizarre play, shortstop Hagens tagged the Bulldogs' Kleinsorge out between second and third for the second out of the inning.
Mexico (8-13, 4-5 NCMC) plated its second and final run more naturally in the fourth. After Samuel Ryan started the inning with a leadoff single, Tyler Thoenen drove him in on his double to deep left-center two at-bats later.
Unlike Mexico's starter, Gohring didn't allow the Bulldogs to extend their run-scoring frames. Fulton's defense also helped since it didn't make an error -- Mexico made two.
Fulton's resilience in the sixth, Gohring's performance and a perfect fielding game allowed the Hornets to make history.
The Hornets can't celebrate for too long, with the business end of the season coming up.
Fulton (9-6, 8-2 NCMC) takes on its third district opponent this season when it travels to Ashland for a matchup with Class 4 No. 5 Southern Boone (20-8) at 5 p.m. Monday. The Hornets are 0-3 against district opponents, while the Eagles are 1-1 -- they beat Fatima 4-2 on March 27 in Ashland.
"They're always going to be a solid team," Lorentzen said. "They're not going to hurt themselves. But as long as you play well, you'll always have a chance to take those guys on. And if we continue to play defensively and pitch the way we are, our bats start coming around; I'm not scared of those guys at all. So we'll get to see them hopefully a couple of times in a week, so it gives us a good chance."