By Tom Schultz
Special to the Herald
MORRISON, Ill. —
In the night cap at the field in Morrison the Mustangs hosted the Fulton Steamers, who waste no time getting on the board.
“Being a young team I thought we had to relax right away. I thought we had a lot of nerves going in there, but I think we did that for the most part getting out to a 3 run lead,” Fulton coach Jayme Farrell said.
Leadoff man Matt Dail reached base when first baseman Bill Lee Gruel bobbled a ground ball starting the game. The crowd shared its displeasure following the back end of a double play; Fulton’s Ethan Jones appeared to be safe, but was called out.
The Steamers continued forward, barreling through and scoring with two outs when TJ Huizenga beat out a squibber up the first base line for an infield hit that scored Colin Tichler. Tichler had earlier hit a scorcher down the third base line.
Jones kept the energy up for the Steamers on defense retiring the first nine batters he saw on the night — five on strike outs. Jones helped himself out in the second inning by knocking in Dail on a double to the gap. The Steamers would score once more plating Austin Manon in the third inning on a wild pitch from Morrison starter Alex Fischbach.
“Early on the three runs we spotted them early I think if we make some plays we don’t have to worry about that,” Morrison coach Ben Sondgeroth in reference to going down early to the Steamers.
While the Steamers only committed one error on the night, they did let a few too many balls get through holes or fall between fielders.
“It came down to we just didn’t attack the baseball defensively, I felt there were balls we should have gotten to,” Farrell said.
That was the most evident in the sixth inning when Morrison strung together five hits in a row to score three runs. Jones was leaving his fastball up and hanging his curveball, allowing Morrison hitters to take advantage, putting the ball in play. The young Steamers team appeared hesitant on some of the balls.
“Jones threw 12 straight innings against us without giving up a hit, he had our number out there,” Sondgeroth said. “(I was) just telling them ‘Try to stay positive.’ I knew if we start putting the ball in play we’d start making some things happen. That’s all it took we got that one hit, the floodgates opened and guys got some confidence.”
Morrison tied the game on a two-RBI triple from Fischbach to right field and promptly followed that up with an RBI single from Andrew Connelly giving them the 4-3 advantage. The Steamers finally got the first out of the inning on a ground ball to first base. Fulton decided to intentionally walk Brock Deter to put the force on, but Jones was running out of gas and hit Connor Duncan forcing in the fifth run of the night for Morrison.
It proved to be all Morrison would need as the Mustangs came out on defense in the next half inning allowing a lead off single from Matt Dail and nothing else to secure the 5-3 win.
Next, conference co-champions Morrison and Erie/Prophetstown will play Saturday morning at 11 a.m. in Morrison for the regional championship.
FULTON 3, MORRISON 5
Fulton 111 000 0 — 3 7 1
Morrison 000 104 X — 5 8 2
Ethan Jones (6ip, 8h, 5r, 4er, 2bb, 9so) and Austin Manon; Alex Fischbach (3.1ip, 6h, 3r, 2er, 3bb, 6so), Billy Lee Gruel (3.2ip, 1h, 2bb, 6so) and Alex Volckmann. Multiple hits: Fulton (Matt Dail); Morrison (Alex Volckmann, Andrew Connelly). Extra base hits: Fulton (Dail, Ethan Jones); Morrison (Volckmann, Alex Fischbach). RBI: Fulton (TJ Huzenga, Jones); Morrison (Connelly 2, Fischbach 2, Connor Duncan).