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Falcons open season 0-2, fall to Higbee, New Franklin

Justin Addison, Editor/Publisher
Posted 3/19/24

The Fayette High School baseball team opened the season against some of the toughest competition in the area, falling 3-0 at Higbee to open the season on Friday and 8-0 against New Franklin in …

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Falcons open season 0-2, fall to Higbee, New Franklin


The Fayette High School baseball team opened the season against some of the toughest competition in the area, falling 3-0 at Higbee to open the season on Friday and 8-0 against New Franklin in Monday’s home opener.

Fayette coach Andy Oeth said he liked how his team played against Higbee ace, DII signee Derek Rockett, but thought the Falcons could have come out a little cleaner against New Franklin in Monday night’s home opener.

“We’re just going to have to learn from it and move forward,” he said.

The Falcons faced one of the best pitchers in the area in Friday’s home opener. Higbee senior Derek Rockett, fresh off a signing to NCAA DII Arkansas Tech, retired 19 of 23 batters faced on strikes. He struck out the side in each of the first two innings and surrendered just three hits while issuing zero walks in a complete seven-inning performance. 

“It’s hard to be upset when we come up against a pitcher like Derek Rockett,” said Coach Oeth. “He’s fantastic, he’s got great stuff. He’s going to do so well at the next level. 

“Our guys—most of them—haven’t seen a pitcher like that before.”

Fayette had three hits against the Tigers’ ace, one each by Payton Oeth, Caleb Craig, and Parley LaValley. 

Meanwhile, Higbee scored one earned run on four hits. In addition to having a stellar arm, Rockett is a force at the plate as well. He drove in one run and scored one run on two extra-base hits, a double and a triple, for the only multi-hit game of the day. Senior Will Spilman and junior Robert Smith each singled.

The Falcons’ sophomore ace, Payton Oeth, started both games. Against Higbee, he allowed just one earned run on four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in 3.2 innings.

Sophomore Ethan Bean closed out the game with four strikeouts and a walk in 2.1 innings on the mound, during which time he gave up zero hits or runs.

Coach Oeth said his goal on Friday was to keep both righties below the 60-pitch count to have them available for Monday’s home opener against New Franklin.

“They really pitched pretty well,” Coach Oeth said. “I think with Fayette baseball, it’s not an expectation anymore that we just come out and roll over because that’s been the expectation. And so I’m excited that that is starting to change with these guys.”

Fayette suffered another tough outing on Monday against area rival New Franklin. Coach Erich Gerding and his veteran team came out ready to manufacture runs, playing small ball on a cold night.

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting Erich to come out and do the small ball thing at the beginning,” said Coach Oeth. “They bunted just about everybody. We tried to adjust pretty quickly, but they’re also really good at bunting, really great at execution. They’re well coached, and it’s one of those things we aspire to be as a team.”

The Bulldogs picked up eight rusn in the first four innings of the game and laid down 10 hits on the night. Seniors Jake Marshall and Tanner Bishop, as well as junior Brandon Philips, each finished with multi-hit nights. Seniors Luke Paulsen, Drew Rhorer, and Connor Wilmsmeyer, as well as sophomore Lane Hackman, each produced one hit.

Wilmsmeyer had the game’s only extra-base hit, a two-RBI triple in the top of the fourth to make it a seven-run ball game.

“I thought we executed well for the most part, offensively,” Gerding said. “We got people moving around the bases, put a little pressure on, and got some production out of the middle of our lineup.”

Gerding and the Bulldogs also benefited from a strong start by senior Tanner Bishop. The right-hander struck out seven batters and allowed just one hit in five innings on the mound.

“It’s great to see Tanner come out and just pump strikes. And we played good defense behind him,” Gerding said.

Hackman allowed one hit as a middle-reliever in the seventh. Wilmsmeyer mopped up with one hit and two strikeouts from the mound in the seventh.

Oeth once again got the start for Fayette, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and a walk while delivering seven strikeouts. Bean gave up two hits and a walk but didn’t allow a run in two innings. Junior Thomas Elliott finished the night on the bump for the Falcons with zero hits, runs, or walks.

Fayette opened a three-game road stretch at Stover after the Advertiser went to press on Tuesday. The Falcons then face Class 4 Centralia on Friday and Cole Camp on Monday before returning home next Tuesday against Glasgow.

New Franklin, now 1-0, was poised to face Class 4 Moberly on Tuesday night on the road. The Bulldogs return home to host Jamestown on Thursday night. The First pitch is at 5 p.m.


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