ROYALS TAKE FIRST ROUND -- By Guy N. Limbeck
COLD SPRING -- The Rochester Royals got something old and something new in an opening-round win of the Class B Minnesota Amateur Baseball Tournament on Friday.
Tourney veteran Mark Skrukrud pitched a six-hitter and rookie Ryan Fulton went 3-for-3 with three runs batted in as the Royals (26-9) defeated Dassel-Cokato 4-2 in the first round.
Skrukrud (7-5) has now won six straight outings over the last three state tournaments, including 3-0 a year ago.
"The bottom line, if Rudy pitches like that we'll be awful tough to beat no matter who we play," Royals player/manager Jeff Milene said.
Skrukrud realizes the importance of the first round of the double-elimination tournament and said he felt a little pressure.
"Yeah, a little bit," he said. "Those first games are really important. You don't want to have to play six or seven games the last weekend."
Skrukrud was in control most of the way against the Saints (21-11). He had a three-hitter before allowing two runs on three doubles in the eighth.
"I was just hitting my spots with the fastball," Skrukrud said. "They were hitting ground balls and the guys were making plays."
Skrukrud struck out seven and walked none. He did not allow a runner past first except in the eighth inning. He also survived a challenge by Dassel in the first inning. The Saints complained he had some white on his glove, and the left-hander was forced to switch mitts.
"Not much rattles Skrukrud," Milene said. "He's not going to let the little things bother him."
While Skrukrud was a solid bet to get off to an outstanding tourney start, Fulton was not. The 19-year-old was playing in his first state tourney game. He entered the game batting .248.
"It felt really good to hit the ball," Fulton said. "I haven't hit the ball as well as I would have liked this year, so it's nice to come through."
Adam Gust singled and scored on Fulton's two-out hit in the second to open the scoring. Fulton, batting in the No. 9 spot, hit a two-run single to highlight a three-run sixth.
"I think I'm getting more pitches to hit down there," Fulton said of batting ninth.