Fulton softball’s second-inning offense leads to run-rule victory

Fulton shakes hands with Moberly after the Hornets run ruled the Spartans Tuesday at Fulton's softball field in Fulton. With the win, the Hornets remain tied for second in the North Central Missouri Conference and improved to 2-0 against district opponents. (Robby Campbell/Fulton Sun)

FULTON -- The Fulton Hornets' eight-run bottom of the second inning with 12 plate appearances helped them to a resounding victory against the Moberly Spartans.

A game full of offense by both teams ended in Fulton run-ruling North Central Missouri Conference/district opponent Moberly 16-6 in five innings Tuesday at Fulton's softball field.

Looking at the score, one may think the Hornets were in cruise control the entire ballgame, but that wasn't the case.

Before Fulton's eight-run second inning, Moberly led 6-3 after 1½ innings.

Trailing by three runs may faze some teams, but not for the Hornets.

Starting its game-deciding frame on the right foot, Fulton's Natalie Underwood received a free pass.

Taking advantage of the walk, the Hornets' Rilee Swaim helped batterymate Natalie Underwood with an RBI double to the wall in right-center during the ensuing at-bat.

While Moberly got an out after that, Reagan Echelmeier grounded out to the Spartans' shortstop and still brought home a run. It looked like she beat the throw, but the umpire ruled it out.

Following that, Samantha Hedgpath put Fulton in a great position to tie the game by crushing the ball and hustling out of the box on her triple to deep right field.

Brilee Ash evened the score at 6-6 for the Hornets, lining an RBI single to left-center field after the triple.

After back-to-back base hits, Fulton excitingly took the lead. Making it electrifying, the Hornets' Jayna Hegpath destroyed the softball by sending it over the right side of the center field scoreboard for a three-run home run to make it 9-6 Fulton.

Leading up to the Hornets' final run-scoring play of the second, they singled, hit into a fielder's choice and walked.

Thanks to poor Moberly fielding, two runs scored when Swaim sent the ball to shallow center field, and the Spartans' center fielder failed to catch it.

Since Fulton extended its lead to 11-6, Moberly pulled starter Taylor Martin.

"I had a lot of confidence in our offense to come back," Fulton coach Tim Echelmeier said. "But we've got to clean up early in the game. First couple of innings, we're giving away two to six runs, and that's something we got to clean up, figure out.

"...We've got to just come out and be ready to play, and we haven't done that yet this season. But we're still early on in the short season. It's still early, and we can clean those things up."

Martin took the loss for the Spartans, allowing 11 runs on nine hits and two walks in 2⅔ innings.

The Hornets' starter also had a short outing, as Mylee Hawkins only lasted ⅓ inning, an uncharacteristic performance for Fulton's second-team all-district pitcher.

Hawkins hit the first batter she faced and then forced a pop out to first base before the Spartans' Presley Brown scored on a wild pitch during Martin's at-bat. The Spartans starter went to first after Hawkins walked her.

During the next at-bat, Moberly's Martin stole second and took third on an errant throw before reaching home on another passed ball. Hawkins also walked that batter, and Natalie Underwood replaced Fulton's starter.

Natalie Underwood hit the first batter she faced but got the next one to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the frame.

Unhappy it trailed 2-0, Fulton took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first on Maddie Bright's RBI single to deep left-center field and Layla Underwood's two RBI bases-clearing double to far right-center.

There seemed to be something affecting the pitching circle in the first, which was addressed once the inning was over. Tim Echelmeier explained what happened.

"I put in some mound bricks to keep from having the holes dig out, and I guess one where they were landing started to move a little bit," Tim Echelmeier said. "The (Moberly pitcher) dug it out, and once she did that, there was no place to land without twisting an ankle. So we had to dig out several of them and throw some mound clay down, but we'll have it all straightened out next home game."

Whether the issue was resolved, the bats continued to be lively.

Moberly plated the last four of its six runs in the second inning as the Spartans' Jordan Pasbrig scored on an error, and another three reached home when Martin made it to third base on an error by the right fielder.

Fulton responded with eight runs in the bottom of the second, and then both teams were held off the scoreboard for the only inning in the third.

The Hornets added three runs to their lead in the fourth inning, with Samantha Hedgpath's RBI single up the middle and Bright's two-RBI base hit into shallow right field.

Sealing the deal in the fifth inning, Fulton pinch hitter Onyx Kamp smacked an RBI two-bagger to the right-center field wall, then Reagan Echelmeier's RBI single to left field concluded the contest.

Focusing on the Hornets' pitching, their three pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter but allowed four walks and hit two batters -- an additional two Spartans reached on errors.

Natalie Underwood earned the win for the Hornets, punching out three while allowing four unearned runs on no hits, two walks and a hit batter in 2⅔ innings.

Ash had the best outing of Fulton's pitchers, closing the door by giving up no runs on no walks while striking out two in two innings.

"Brilee is definitely our strike thrower," Echelmeier said. "I had planned on throwing -- I had another pitcher coming in in the sixth -- if we didn't finish that game in the fifth. Just because I was gonna get a bunch of different people a couple of innings tonight because they all need a little bit of work because I'm gonna need them all throwing this weekend."

With the Fulton (8-2, 3-1 NCMC) win versus Moberly (2-5, 1-2 NCMC), the Hornets stayed second in the NCMC and improved to 2-0 against district opponents.

Making Fulton's victory important, the Hornets could move into a tie for first in the NCMC if they beat district opponent Mexico (6-6, 3-0 NCMC) at 5 p.m. Thursday in Mexico, Missouri. In last season's NCMC meeting at Mexico, the Hornets won a high-scoring 13-11 decision against the Lady Bulldogs.

"Going to Mexico is a lot like going to Kirksville; it always seems like something wild and crazy is going to happen," Tim Echelmeier said. "It really doesn't matter. History doesn't matter. If history tells us anything, it's going to be a crazy one. So we've got to come prepared to play, and we control our own destiny in the conflicts even with that loss. We take care of business here; we'll be fine."