OREGON, Ill. – The Fulton baseball team saw things to look forward to in an 8-2 loss to Byron High School on Tuesday night, especially when most of the varsity roster is returning.
Coming off of an exciting 11-9 win in the first round of the sectional on Monday night. They jumped out to an early 9-0 lead over Oregon but watched that lead dissipate over three innings. Still, they held on for a win, just their second this season.
They then had to face off with the No. 1 seed at the Oregon sectional. The win was not as lopsided as the final score looked, with the Steamers never allowing the door to be fully shut.
“I really believe that yesterday’s [Monday] win, hey felt like they earned it,” head coach Brent Dykstra said. “Today was a direct results of them believing in themselves.”
Both teams were held scoreless through the first two innings, a big advantage for the young Fulton team. They ended up striking with one run in the top of the third after Jacob Jones reached first after wearing the pitch. Jones was brought around with consecutive hits from Larson Barnett and Jake Pannell.
Byron definitely had an answer. The home half of the third saw Byron accumulate seven hits and the Steamers pick up three defensive errors, giving the No. 1 seed the 5-1 lead.
But, Fulton came back out in the fourth and came out unscathed.
“We had a few missed keys on defense, the kids were thinking ‘here we go again’,” Dykstra said. “But they regrouped.”
Fulton had a hit in every single inning, something they haven’t always seen this season. In the fifth, both Jacob Jones and Drew Dykstra got into scoring position, but were left stranded.
In the sixth inning, four consecutive singles from Jake Pannell, Kannon Wynkoop, Zach Stratton and Kraig Schipper loaded the bases and brought in one run, but once again the Steamers left three on base.
Finally, they left both Dykstra and Larson Barnett on base in the top of the seventh. Those eight potential points were felt after Byron tacked on two more runs.
Dykstra points to the youth as part of the explanation. Many times, the Steamers were making contact during at bats, but the balls were landing in the gloves of outfielders or chopping into the dirt. With mostly freshman and sophomores, a lot of the ahtletes are still waiting on growth spurts to kick in.
“Those will happen,” Dykstra said. “Jake Jones had that gapper there and here’s the difference, that’s over the fence when he’s a junior or senior. It’s that bigger, faster, stronger that holds us back from seeing some of those things.”
Although that marks the end of the season for the Steamers, there’s a lot to take away from the improvement of the team. They lose just Larson Barnett and Zach Stratton to graduation, returning the rest of the roster.
With a few more timely hits, they were right in the game with the No. 1 seed ... and Dykstra knows that shows promise for next spring.
“I tell you what ... we were there,” Dykstra said. “We were so close today. I was telling these guys this was one of the best games I’ve seen them play.”
“This kind of game here is setting the stage for what’s to come.”