By Zach James Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — FULTON, Ill. — It just took a little while for the Fulton baseball team to get in gear.
Fulton defeated Milledgeville 13-3 in six innings in a Class 1A regional semifinal. The Steamers scored eight runs in the sixth inning to pull away from the Missiles.
“We executed really well in that inning,” Steamers coach Kyle Miller said. “It was a good effort, and we sleepwalked through the first couple innings, but we came alive and anytime in the postseason where you can save an inning here or an inning there is always a good thing.”
Paul Velasco and Tyler Sweenie each had bases-clearing doubles in the sixth after Milledgeville took out its starting pitcher, Caleb Skoog. At that point, the Steamers weren’t afraid to swing away.
“I saw a lot of curveballs, and I knew I had to sit back on them and take them to right field,” Velasco, who went 3-for-4 with five RBIs, said. “Coach Miller told me before that inning that it was my turn to get a big hit and play my role.”
Velasco felt like he was going to have a big day.
“I’ve been kinda slow lately, and right when I hit that double, it felt good,” Velasco said.
Miller believes that when Velasco is on, he’s one of the best hitters in the Three Rivers Conference.
“He’s one kid in the lineup who I can tell to just go after it,” Miller said. “He doesn’t need to see many pitches, and he led us in batting average in the conference season.”
Velasco also had a two-run single in the third inning to give Fulton the five runs it had prior to the sixth inning explosion. Velasco had the first double in the sixth, but Sweenie, who’s only a freshman, broke it open with the second double that put allowed Fulton to bring the Missiles back to ground level.
“We took advantage of the pitches that we were seeing and drove in some big runs,” Sweenie said. “We started off slow, but we finally got hot at the plate.”
Sweenie’s lone hit was the double in the sixth, and he scored the final run off of a Seth Sanderson single that enforced the 10-run rule.
“He’s got a lot of confidence as a freshman,” Miller said. “He came up to me on the first day of practice and said that he wanted to be the starting varsity catcher, and as a coach, I was a little guarded, but I liked the confidence.
“He earned the spot, and now he’s the catcher for the regional final,” Miller added.
Sweenie caught Ethan Jones once again on Wednesday, as struck out 14 Missiles in the win. He threw six innings, and needed just 86 pitches to defeat Milledgeville. 60 of those were strikes.
FULTON 13, MILLEDGEVILLE 3 (6 inn.)
Milledgeville 010 200 — 3 3 2
Fulton 104 008 — 13 10 1
Caleb Skoog (3.1 ip, 4 h, 5 r, 5 er, 6 bb, 2 so), Blake Keppes (1.2 ip, 6 h, 8 r, 7 er, 2 bb, 1 so), Zach Herin ( 0 ip, 3 h, 4 r, 4 er, 0 bb, 0 so) and Kameron Dawtyne. Ethan Jones (6 ip, 3 h, 3 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 14 so) and Tyler Sweenie. Multiple hits — Fulton (Paul Velasco 3, Ethan Jones 3, Cody Huff 2). 2B — Fulton (Jones, Sweenie, Velasco). RBIs — Milledgeville (Murray); Fulton (Velasco 5, Sweenie 3, Seth Sanderson, Jones, Colin Housenga, Jake Vanzuiden, Cody Huff).