DIXON – Dixon American Legion Post 12 had handled Fulton Post 402 three times in the regular season.
In the Illinois District 13 Tournament that began Monday at Veterans Memorial Field, however, the tables turned in a hurry. Fulton exploded for two big innings right off the bat, and cruised to an 11-1 five-inning victory.
“First game of the season they beat us 13-0,” Fulton’s Dillon Still said, “but with each game, we closed the gap. The last game we played, we lost by one run. It felt great to come out and beat them finally.”
For Fulton manager Dave Ludin, it was all about effort.
“No matter what the score is, if we’re down 10 or 20 runs, it doesn’t matter, you still give maximum effort,” Ludin said. “You leave it all on the field. When we walk off the field, we want to know we gave 100 percent, and whatever the result is, that’s what it is. Tonight, they brought it.”
Fulton seized control immediately. Still, Gavyn Mendoza, Tyler Ferris and Gage Hugart each delivered run-scoring singles, and another run scored on a wild pitch by Dixon starter Ethan Van Horn. The inning ended when Ferris was thrown out at home trying to score on another wild pitch.
In the second inning, Fulton broke it wide open with six more runs. Kannon Wynkoop, Ferris and Davis Ludin had RBI singles, Mendoza plated a run with a groundout, and Hugart capped off the uprising with a two-run double down the right-field line.
Hugart tried to stretch the hit into a triple, but was thrown out for the final out of the inning.
Dixon reliever Michael Ullrich tossed three innings of scoreless relief, but the damage had been done. Fulton ended up with 15 hits in the contest.
“It felt great,” said Still, a recent Morrison High School graduate. “The baseball gods were with us. Everything was dropping, and fortunately everything they were hitting was going right at us. We couldn’t have asked for a much better day.”
Dixon had a few opportunities go by the wayside. With two outs in the second, Jacob Shafer singled off the first base bag, then stole second. Ullrich followed with a base hit to center, but Fulton’s Hugart threw a strike to catcher Kyle Schipper to nab Shafer at the plate.
In the fourth inning, Dixon loaded the bases on a single and two errors by Fulton shortstop Wynkoop. Starting pitcher Corey Hartson got Ullrich on a grounder to Wynkoop to end the threat.
Hartson tossed four shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk, with one strikeout.
“I was just throwing strikes,” said Hartson, who will be a junior at Riverdale this fall. “The fastball was working. The curveball was working for a little while. I had fielders behind me to make plays. Just kind of all around, everything was working for us tonight.”
Dixon was able to avoid the shutout with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Beau Evans led off with a walk and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Andrew Pollom. The offense never got in gear, however, with just three hits, and was never able to put much pressure on Fulton.
“[Fulton] put the ball in play early,” Dixon manager Tyler Leffel said. “We made a couple of mistakes in the outfield, some really bad routes, and they made us pay. They put a five- and a six-spot on us. We shut them down after that, but it’s too late then. Hat’s off to them.”
American Legion Baseball
Fulton 11, Dixon 1, 5 inn.
Star of the game: Gage Hugart, Fulton, 3-for-3, 2B, 3 RBI
Key performers: Corey Hartson, Fulton, 4 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 K, 1 BB; Dillon Still, Fulton, 3-for-4, 2 R, RBI
Up next: Fulton at Hanover, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday; Dixon at Freeport or Forreston, 5:30 Thursday