Fulton baseball pulls off the improbable, beating state champ Tolton in districts

Fulton's Ethan Burt strikes out Tolton's Hayden Brumfield for the final out, sending the Hornets to the semifinals of the Class 4 District 8 tournament Saturday at Southern Boone High School in Ashland. With the result, Fulton beat a private school for the first time since it won 8-6 Duchense in the 2016 Class 4 state quarterfinals. (Fulton Sun/Robby Campbell)
Fulton's Ethan Burt strikes out Tolton's Hayden Brumfield for the final out, sending the Hornets to the semifinals of the Class 4 District 8 tournament Saturday at Southern Boone High School in Ashland. With the result, Fulton beat a private school for the first time since it won 8-6 Duchense in the 2016 Class 4 state quarterfinals. (Fulton Sun/Robby Campbell)

ASHLAND -- A week after he tossed a no-hitter to guide the Fulton Hornets to the Fulton Tournament title, Dusty Hagens pitched another gem on Southern Boone's ball field.

Hagens's stellar outing came against the Class 4 receiving votes Tolton Trailblazers, who won the Class 3 state title last season and moved up a class due to MSHSAA's class-deciding rules for private schools.

Along with the Hornets' pitching, No. 5 seed Fulton had two big frames at the plate and quality fielding for the most part. That led to it pulling off the improbable upset, beating No. 4 seed Tolton 6-1 in the Class 4 District 8 tournament opening round Saturday.

Circling back to Hagens, he had stuff working for him, allowing no earned runs on two hits and a walk while striking out four in five innings.

"He's gonna be the guy you rely on a lot and heavy," Fulton coach Jacob Lorentzen said. "We made some decisions on who was going to be the guy today. Ultimately we knew that we get it done if we put him on the mound. He was there and did what he does best, which is keep guys off toes and allow his defense to do a little bit of work when they need to."

Backing Hagens up from the start, Fulton jumped out to a 3-0 lead after scoring three on three hits and a hit-by-pitch.

Before the Hornets plated their first run, Trailblazers starter Connor Head hit Wyatt Wilfley, then allowed an Ethan Burt stand-up double to the gap in right-center -- Wilfley reached third on Burt's two-bagger.

All-conference Fulton position player Ethan Milius showed why, roping the ball to the left field fence and sliding head-first into second for an RBI double. The Hornets bench directed their approval, shouting, "Ole!".

After that, Tyler Arthur sent Burt, another all-conference Hornet home, on his sacrifice fly to center.

Capping the scoring in the first, Hagens -- who received the most all-conference votes among pitchers for the third straight season -- did something he received less recognition for but is also solid at -- driving in runs. With Arthur on second, Hagens sent him home by drilling a hard-hit groundball single past first and into right; Hagens reached second on the throw home.

Ending the frame, the Trailblazers turned a double play, which started with a fly out to right and finished with a 9-5 for the double play.

Tolton may have gotten out of the inning impressively. Still, after just half an inning, Fulton's 3-0 advantage was the cushion any would want in a postseason game, especially when the Hornets are billed as the "underdog."

"That's big. We did the same thing in Macon on Wednesday, scored four there," Lorentzen said. "...Our top of the lineup putting pressure on. We're executing baseball things. Hit in runs, bunts, and just putting a lot of pressure early, and that really gets to guys. High school guys do often make a mistake when the pressure is that high, so we want to continue to do is keep that pressure."

Unlike the Hornets, the Trailblazers starter Connor Head -- who made first-team all-state in Class 3 as a pitcher last season and is a State Fair Community College commit -- couldn't pitch consistently, though he did well minus two frames.

Taking the loss, Head allowed six runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out two in 3⅓ innings.

Head was at his best in the third when he struck out the first two hitters -- the leadoff batter swinging on four pitches and the next on five pitches looking. After that, he allowed two walks but got out of it by forcing the opposing pitcher Hagens into a fielder's choice at third.

Following his strongest inning, Fulton got to Head's head, tagging him for three in the fourth while notching four hits before Tolton pulled its ace.

Three-sport all-conference student-athlete Walker Gohring lined a single to shallow right-center to begin the offense.

After a groundout, Miles Bethell singled to shallow right before Gabe DeFily slapped an RBI single to the Trailblazers' left fielder.

Ending Head's start, Fulton's Wilfley smashed a stand-up RBI double to the left-field fence. The Hornets fans chanted "F-U-L, T-O-N" as the all-conference junior put it up 5-1.

Luke McBee replaced Head on the bump for Tolton, and he had the tall task of facing the heart of Fulton's lineup.

Showing it's a challenge, McBee allowed an RBI single to the first batter he faced. The Hornets' Burt pulled the first pitch he saw past short and into left for the run-scoring base hit.

That concluded the contest's run-scoring, with Fulton's two run-scoring innings proving too much for Tolton to overcome.

The Trailblazers plated their lone run in the third when the Hornets made the game's only error.

Hagens looked like he did any other inning, sending Tolton's first two hitters packing in the third, but the Trailblazers finally recorded a hit in the contest.

Cameron Lee tallied Tolton's first hit, lining a single to center. The Trailblazers' Lee stole two bases before Alex Frost put the ball in play to short, and Lee scored as Fulton's shortstop overthrew his first baseman.

That was the contest's only error, showing hitting and pitching were the difference.

Not only did the Hornets have better starting pitching, but they also had excellent relief pitching.

Throwing the final two innings, Fulton's Burt allowed no runs on no hits and walks while striking out two.

Tolton's McBee also did well out of the bullpen, but he put runners on. The senior allowed no runs on two hits and a walk while striking out two.

Regarding punch-outs, Burt ended the Trailblazers' season by striking out Hayden Brumfield on five pitches. Brumfield, one of nine Tolton (13-9) seniors, was part of a special Trailblazers class of 2023 -- the group won the school's first state title in baseball and had to overcome missing their freshman season due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Hornets earned a statement victory against a Columbia private school whose town's population is 114,132 greater than Fulton, according to the United States Census Bureau's 2021 survey. And it's Fulton's first postseason win against a private school since it beat St. Charles private school, Duchesne, 8-6 in the 2016 Class 4 state quarterfinals -- the Hornets took fourth at state that season.

"The way I look at it, we're in the second-best position in a tournament right now," Lorentzen said. "Obviously, you want the No. 1 seed, right? That makes you feel good, makes you set up really well. But the other seed we want is the one that nobody knows about. Okay, we'll take the last seed. Everybody overlooking us, everybody thinking on to the next game because all we get to do then is just go play baseball and have fun, and that's what the guys did today. They just went out and had fun."

Apart from the already highly-entertaining matchup, there's a connection between the schools as Fulton's Hagens -- who will play college baseball at the University of Missouri-St. Louis --shared he's batterymates with Tolton's Jacob Hoernschemeyer -- a Saint Louis University baseball walk-on --during travel baseball season.

"Jake is just a tough player overall," Hagens said. "He's such a hard guy to get out when he's hitting. It's always just a fun guy to play against and play with, for sure. And I know Lucas (Wietholder) at short; he's made a name for himself. One of the top prospects in his class, just to play against guys on my club ball team is just fun."

That's not the only connection: the Hornets' Milius is teammates with Jake Ryan and Wietholder on the US Nationals "Midland" team.

Milius was unavailable for an interview since he and teammate/all-conference track and field athlete DeFily took a 93-mile car ride from Ashland to Wentzville for Fulton's district track meet, which happened Saturday as well.

It doesn't get any easier with No. 5 seed Fulton (14-8) turning around and playing another state champion in top-seeded host, Class 4 No. 4 Southern Boone (25-9) -- led by Missouri Sports Hall of Fame coach Brian Ash, who earned his 100th win in four years with the Eagles Tuesday -- in the District 8 semifinals at 5 p.m. Monday in Ashland. In their first meeting this season, Southern Boone beat Fulton 4-1 on May 1 in Ashland.

"I think we're doing things well at the right time," Lorentzen said. "If our pitching can hold up and keep guys off balance. Our defense is going to do the work for us on that and when they put things in play. Offensively, we just take good approaches. I mean, they want to throw the (Carter) Salter kid; we've already seen him once. If they serve somebody else, I think we could be scary moving guys around. Ash has a great team; they're not gonna beat themselves. So we're gonna have to come out and act and beat them."