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Fulton baseball tops SC West to reach state for first time since ‘16

by Robby Campbell | May 26, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Fulton's Ethan Burt swings at a pitch thrown by St. Charles West's pitcher in the Class 4 Quarterfinal 2 game Thursday at Warrior Field in St. Charles. (Special to Fulton Sun/Pual Baillargeon)

ST. CHARLES --Trailing 4-0 with under-the-weather ace Dusty Hagens pulled after 2⅔ innings, the Fulton Hornets advanced to state by outscoring the St. Charles West Warriors 12-5 between the bottom of the third and the end of the game.

"What else do we need to do to force people to notice Fulton, Missouri?" Fulton coach Jacob Lorentzen said. "Because I feel like we're riding a hot streak, and ain't nobody saying our name for anything."

In a roughly three-hour contest that felt like three games in one, Fulton kept up its epic run under first-year coach Lorentzen, beating St. Charles West 12-9 in the Class 4 Quarterfinal 2 game Thursday at Warrior Field. While the game may have been played in St. Charles, Fulton was the home team.

Beginning with the Hornets' resilience in the bottom of the third, they plated four on four hits and two walks while batting through the order.

In its third plate appearance of the inning, Fulton's Ethan Burt drove home two when he smacked a bases-clearing double to the gap in right-center.

Two batters later, Burt scored on Tyler Arthur's groundout to short, which made it a one-run deficit for Fulton (4-3) with two outs.

After all-district seniors Hagens (single) and Walker Gohring (walk) reached, the Hornets got to pitcher Brenan Goering again as Justin Case tied the contest at 4 with his RBI single past short and into shallow left.

"Four runs, we're only averaging just above that, like, as far as given up per a game," Lorentzen said. "So I just told them, that's our forte. These guys are giving up eight, nine, seven, eight runs a game. Like, we're gonna score some runs, so just keep in there and battle in there, and we did. It's really great to get those few runs right there, and ended up tying it up was even more than I wanted."

Two innings later, No. 9 hitter Gabe DeFily -- the Hornet, who hit a leadoff single in Fulton's four-run third -- put his team in front for the first time and for good. With two outs and a runner 90 feet from home, DeFily clobbered an RBI double to the alley in deep left-center.

DeFily may have been the Hornet to drive in the eventual game-deciding run, but it took a team effort to make that happen.

Showing it did, Case slapped a one-out single up the middle for Fulton's only hit of the fifth before DeFily's at-bat. Fulton boys soccer standout Luke Holland replaced Case -- a catcher -- as a courtesy runner, and he swiped second early in DeFily's at-bat before reaching home from second on the sophomore's two-bagger.

"When (Case) gets on as a catcher, and we can courtesy run and get a couple of guys with speed on the base pads to do some things," Lorentzen said. "I think we had 13 stolen bases today. So to me, that's a huge factor of being able to put a lot of pressure on their pitching staff."

Baserunning and solid approaches at the plate paid for the Hornets when they could've easily given up, trailing 4-0 after 2½ innings with Hagens pitching.

Fulton's Hagens still had his fastball working for him as he punched out four. Hagens caught three hitters chasing with some high heat while he recorded his fourth and final on a pitch down low that kept the Warriors batter on his backfoot.

On the downside, the Hornets' Hagens allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks in 2⅔ innings.

"I got a call at about 11 o'clock today or a text that said Dusty had had food poisoning all night and had been up puking and didn't know exactly what he was going to give us," Lorentzen said. "He did a lot for the team by just showing up, riding the bus with us, coming out here, giving it everything he had. Well, under 100%. Well, I mean, 50% probably, and still came out throwing strikes doing what he needed to do. And the good thing is, too, like he understood, he did his job, what he could do, gave the ball and said, 'Alright, let's let the other guys come in and do their job.' And that's what this team has been about."

St. Charles West recorded its only extra-base hit against Hagens when Nathan Suess roped a leadoff triple to start the second.

Suess then scored the game's first run for the Warriors when Jrue Blassingame hit the ball to third and reached first on an error by Fulton's first baseman -- one of the Hornets' two errors. The inning prior, the Hornets got out of a bases-loaded jam when St. Charles West grounded out to third.

If Fulton didn't get out of the first unscathed, its deficit could've been worse after the Warriors' three-run third. In the third, St. Charles West had eight plate appearances and scored three on three hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch.

The hit-by-pitch extended the Warriors' lead to 2-0, as Suess reached home when Noah Gramling was pegged with the bases loaded.

St. Charles West followed it up with a Karson Quinn two-RBI single up the middle. Hagens's outing ended after he let the Warriors increase their advantage to 4-0, while St. Charles West fans gave their loudest cheers all game.

Unlike Fulton's starter, the Warriors' Goering had the best performance of their four pitchers.

Tossing the first four innings, Goering took the loss for St. Charles West, allowing four runs (all earned) on five hits, four walks and a hit batter while striking out four. Aside from the third, Goering allowed no runs on a hit, two walks and a hit batter.

Adam Caulk replaced Goering on the mound for St. Charles West to begin the fifth, and he allowed three runs (all earned) on two hits and a hit batter while striking out one in ⅔ inning.

After Caulk allowed Fulton to take the lead, he hit a hitter before the Warriors brought in their second of three pitchers in the fifth.

Rolen Moore came in for St. Charles West and was the first of two upperclassmen to pitch for the Warriors -- both threw in the fifth.

St. Charles West's Moore walked the two batters he faced, with one allowing a run to score, before getting replaced by Jackson Meers, who threw the remainder of the game.

With the pads still full, the Warriors' Meers hit the first batter he faced to extend Fulton's lead to 7-4. Then, regrouping, Meers punched out the second he met to end the Hornets' three-run fifth.

St. Charles West's hitters seemed to gain momentum from Meers's punch-out since it scored two in the next frame to make it a one-run game.

The Warriors notched a leadoff single and then a double before Brady Kilker smoked an RBI sacrifice fly to deep right-center. Fulton reliever Burt struck out the next batter, then St. Charles West plated its final run on Blassingame's stand-up double to the fence in left.

While the Warriors scored, they didn't take the lead, leading to Hornets fans chanting "F-U-L, T-O-N" after they got out of the frame with their advantage intact.

More "F-U-L, T-O-N" chants happened in the bottom half of the sixth when Case singled on a sacrifice bunt to move Gohring -- notched a leadoff double -- to third.

That was just the start of the Hornets' five-run sixth -- their highest-scoring frame of the contest.

St. Charles West walked Miles Bethell to fill the pads, then DeFily drove home his second run on his sacrifice fly to center. On third, Gohring didn't try advancing on the play, but the Warriors' centerfielder overthrew his catcher, plating Gohring.

Fulton tallied the remainder of its runs in the sixth with two outs.

Burt drove in half of them for the Hornets when he sent two home on a single up the middle, giving him a game-high four RBI. Then, making it back-to-back-to-back scoring plays, Ethan Milius lined an RBI double to deep left, then Ben Leslie hit an opposite-field RBI single to right-center to conclude the streak -- Fulton's scoring for the game.

Circling back to Burt, he not only had a game-high four RBI for Fulton, but he also earned the win. The all-district junior allowed two runs (all earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out two in 3⅓ innings.

While the Hornets' pitchers may have allowed five more runs than its average of 4.4 this season heading into Tuesday, Fulton's hitters recorded seven more than its 5.3 per game. Meanwhile, the Warriors tallied two runs less than their 7.3 runs per game and allowed six more than their 5.9 allowed per game.

St. Charles West (16-15) made the runs per game number look better in the seventh when it plated three.

To start the seventh, Fulton replaced Burt with Milius on the mound. Facing four hitters, he allowed a leadoff walk, a Quinn RBI double to left, another walk and a Barrett Dissellhorst RBI double down the left-field line.

Freshman Gage Tiffany shut the door down for the Hornets, however. Earning the save, he allowed no runs on no hits, no walks and a hit batter while striking out two in an inning.

Tiffany hit St. Charles West's Blassingame with the bases loaded, but Milius was charged with the run.

Milius may have let the Warriors attempt a comeback, but he ended it by catching a pop fly in shallow center, sending Fulton to state.

The Hornets head to state for the first time since 2016, and like that season, South Callaway baseball also advanced to state -- Class 3 for the Bulldogs. Before this season, Fulton's and South Callaway's 2016 state baseball teams were the last pair of Callaway County team sports teams in a respective sport to reach state in the same season; both teams will hope to improve on their fourth-place finish in 2016.

Taking on the highest-ranked team left, Fulton (19-8) will have its hands full when it faces Class 4 No. 2 John Burroughs (26-3) in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Ozark. The Bombers are undefeated against MSHSAA schools this season, though they won by a run (8-7) -- tied for their closest game against a MSHSAA school this season -- to St. Charles West on May 5 in St. Louis.

"A lot more obstacles to jump through on what we're doing," Lorentzen said. "But those are good things to have 100%. We'll keep burning those bridges. They got graduation tomorrow and the weekend's Memorial weekend. So we're gonna get some work in when we can and be ready to come out next week."

photo Fulton coach Jacob Lorentzen watches on in the Hornets' Class 4 Quarterfinal 2 game against St. Charles West Thursday at Warrior Field in St. Charles. (Special to Fulton Sun/Paul Baillargeon)
photo Fulton's Dusty Hagens throws a pitch to St. Charles West in Class 4 Quarterfinal 2 action Thursday at Warrior Field in St. Charles. (Special to Fulton Sun/Paul Baillargeon)
photo Fulton's Ethan Burt lays down a bunt versus St. Charles West in the Class 4 Quarterfinal 2 contest Thursday at Warrior Field in St. Charles. (Special to Fulton Sun/Paul Baillargeon)

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