STERLING — Davis Ludin picked a heck of a time to hit his first home run.

The Fulton baseball junior hit a two-run dinger to score he and his teammate Brock Mason to cut Newman Catholic Central’s lead to just one run in the seventh inning.

“I was just ready to make contact,” Ludin said. “My first at-bats were both strikeouts. I focused on contact, ready for the fastball and it was a perfect spot — down and inside — and I was ready to jump on it.”

It gave the Steamers new life.

“I thought we for sure had that one after he hit that,” Fulton senior Connor Barnett said. “We were just going to be down one with one out, but just fell a little short.”

Pitcher Blake Wolfe got the final two outs as Newman defeated Fulton 3-2 in an IHSA Class 1A Regional Final Monday.

“After the game, I said, ‘Hey — don’t hold your head, just like any loss. You don’t hold your head. There’s a lot of improvements,’” Fulton coach Brent Dykstra said. “I told them at the beginning of the game they were going to have to fight for seven solid innings. There’s no doubt going into that seventh inning, we still weren’t going to be done fighting.

“Sometimes you feel momentum changing — we had a few misplays in that one inning, and those little things matter. Usually at the end of the game, usually not during the game. Davis came up and we kept battling all the way to the end.”

Fulton went down 1-0 early, then Newman tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Then came Ludin’s heroics in the seventh inning.

“I’m just proud of my guys,” Ludin said. “Hopefully next year we’ll make a better run. I know my guys are ready for that and we have the determination to do that.”

Barnett took the loss on the mound, pitching six innings with three runs (one earned), two walks and three strikeouts.

“Just a tremendous athlete,” Dykstra said. “He gave us his all today. He left it all on the field.”

Barnett said the Steamers gave it everything they could.

“I was just trying to throw strikes,” Barnett said. “They were putting the bat on it, but my defense was really backing me up — we just didn’t get the sticks going quick enough, just one of those games, but it was still a great game all around.”

The loss ends a very successful high school athletics career for Barnett, the team’s lone senior. He felt fortunate to end it with a postseason after COVID took away postseasons from other sports.

“It was a lot of fun to end it with a postseason,” Barnett said. “I just wish we came out victorious, but that can’t always happen. This group of guys is going to be really good next year — I’d like to see how they do.”

Kannon Wynkoop, Mason, and Ethan Price each had one hit. Fulton finishes the season 10-7.

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