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Fulton baseball falls to No. 2 John Burroughs in Class 4 semifinals

by Robby Campbell | June 1, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

OZARK -- The Fulton Hornets recorded one less hit than the John Burroughs Bombers, but baserunning and the inability to string hits together led to them losing the contest.

Fulton -- the only unranked team in the Final Four -- lost 5-1 to second-ranked John Burroughs -- the highest-ranked Final Four team -- in the Class 4 state semifinals Wednesday afternoon at Sky Bacon Stadium.

In the third-place game, Fulton (19-9) faces seventh-ranked Excelsior Springs (28-13) at 4 p.m. today. Fifth-ranked Springfield Catholic beat Excelsior Springs 3-2 in eight innings in the semifinals.

"It's the second place anybody wants to be at, but it's great," Fulton coach Jacob Lorentzen said. "We're gonna put together a great run at it. These boys are so excited to be here. They deserve to be here."

What proved most detrimental to the Hornets were the Bombers' three multi-hit innings, when they scored all of their runs. Fulton had one multi-hit inning, and it plated one then -- the bottom of the third.

"We didn't have a whole lot of guys on the base paths to do much with today," Lorentzen said. "I would definitely say it's a difference because they had a little more opportunities than we did."

Playing in his second-to-last game for Fulton, Walker Gohring sent Ben Leslie -- hit a one-out single -- home when he crushed a two-out triple to deep right-center, hustling and sliding into third.

Gohring's RBI three-bagger brought Hornets fans to their feet, and they chanted "F-U-L, T-O-N."

Another Fulton senior, Dusty Hagens, gave his all in his last-ever high school start on the bump.

Taking the complete-game loss, Hagens allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk while striking out three in seven innings.

"He did really well," Lorentzen said. "The one thing that hurt him, honestly, in the beginning, was just not quite getting ahead of some batters, which is tough when you're facing those kinds of elite hitters.

"But what he really did for us is he pitched seven innings today, which means we can pitch anybody we want to tomorrow, other than him. And that's huge for our program."

Helping limit the damage, a pair of seniors, Gohring and Jayce Thompson, shined in the outfield for the Hornets.

Gohring and Thompson made a few phenomenal snags, with both making an out each on one in the fifth.

With one out, John Burroughs No. 5 hitter William Chapman Jr. hit the ball to foul territory in right, and Thompson dashed to it, making a sliding catch.

During the following at-bat, the Bombers' Jack Enger smacked the ball to left, and Gohring hauled it over his head while diving.

"Jayce Thompson makes a hell of a play -- a couple of really good plays, honestly," Lorentzen said. "And Walker Gohring running down a baseball that for sure I thought was a hit and left late in the game. It's huge, and Gabe DeFily at third base today was just phenomenal."

Unfortunately for Fulton, John Burroughs found gaps in the three innings it scored.

On the last of John Burrough's three hits in the first, Griffin Barnett blooped an RBI single into shallow right.

The Bombers had another three-hit inning in the third, plating three: Julian Schenck helped himself with a one-out stand-up double well past Fulton's centerfielder in deep right-center; Schenck scored on Champman Jr.'s groundout to third; Enger lined an RBI single right in front of the right fielder.

John Burroughs scored its final run in the fourth as Calvin Gelle bombed the ball to deep right, sliding head-first into third for an RBI triple.

Those three multi-hit innings by the Bombers were game-changing since there wasn't too much difference in pitching.

Schenck -- John Burroughs's No. 2 starter -- earned the complete-game win, giving up one earned run on six hits (only one extra-base hit) and two walks while striking out eight in seven innings.

The Hornets' fielding was a bit weaker than the Bombers as they only made one error. However, it happened with one out in John Burroughs's three-run third.

On what could've been a routine groundout, Fulton's second baseman misfielded it, and the Bombers had two more outs to work with instead of one. John Burroughs scored two after the play, showing how pivotal it was.

Just a game short of making it to the state championship, Fulton can be proud of its postseason run under first-year coach Lorentzen. The Hornets beat two state champions while eliminating three teams receiving state-ranking votes.

"Realistically, that game should have been 3-2, maybe a 4-2 game coming at the end," Lorentzen said. "Five-one; I think it could've looked a little better than that."

Even though it lost to the Bombers, there were other factors apart from the teams themselves making a win for Fulton challenging.

John Burroughs's 2022-23 school year tuition was $32,800, $13,349 more than the city of Fulton's average annual individual income in 2021 and $526 less than St. Louis, where the school is located.

Win or lose, outside factors or not, the Hornets are making the most of their time at state. Showing how tight-knit Fulton's team is, all of its players decided to bleach their hair.

"They said they wanted to do something silly," Lorentzen said. "That's what they decided, and that's good team camaraderie. They're just loving each other right now and loving what we're doing."

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