MONMOUTH — When April temperatures dip into the 40s, no high school baseball coach with a view of the big picture wants his ace’s pitch count to surpass that number by much.

Kyle Fletcher did his part Thursday to make life easier for Eric Palleschi and the rest of the Monmouth Mustangs. The junior left-hander threw a highly economical, four-hit, six-inning shutout in a 10-0 MVC triumph over Lisbon at Chick Field.

Fletcher retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced on only 32 pitches, and he got even better at inducing lazy fly balls and harmless grounders after that.

“Throw the ball over the plate and good things happen. It’s fun to watch,” Palleschi said. “Kyle ended up with 56 (pitches), and that’s what we talked about. ‘Let’s get 60 and go from there,’ and we didn’t even have to go from there, which is nice.”

Six of Fletcher’s eight strikeouts came in the first three innings. He also froze a Lisbon runner with his lights-out pickoff move to first and benefited from a batter’s interference call on another attempted steal of third.

“It takes a little more time to warm up than usual, but once you get going it’s pretty good,” Fletcher said of the cool, damp conditions. “You just hope for short innings.”

Meanwhile, Monmouth made Lisbon endure two endless innings, putting up four runs in the bottom of the first and four more to end the game by virtue of the mercy rule in the sixth.

Two hit batters and a throwing error hurt the Greyhounds and starter Kyle Bourget in the opening frame. Reliever R.J. Sargent was victimized by four walks and another plunk during the Mustangs’ game-ending rally.

“(Bourget) threw 44 pitches in the first inning. It’s hard to come back from that,” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said. “My boys showed a lot of character coming back and battling. Yeah, we never did score a run, but we kept hitting the ball and working hard.”

Bourget (2-for-3, including a double) and designated hitter Brett Gravel (2-for-2) supplied all the hits for Lisbon.

Fletcher never got to a three-ball count on the afternoon. His drop of a windblown pop-up in front of the plate was the lone Monmouth error.

“Things are much better this year. We still had a couple of people missing today (on vacation and school trips). The other kids stepped up and made the plays defensively,” Palleschi said. “In the past we haven’t. We’re a year older, and it shows.”

Bourget nicked D.J. McHugh and Billy Cummings back-to-back with one out to fuel Monmouth’s first inning.

Alex Curtis’ check-swing single to right field supplied the first run. Phil Rowe followed Josh Fournier’s fly out with another RBI single.

Curtis later scored on a passed ball. Rowe crossed the plate on the back end of a double steal with Devin West.

Bourget fanned Brett Wilson to end the inning and settled into a groove until the fourth.

After a leadoff walk by West (his second of four free passes on the day), Lisbon made a throwing miscue on Wilson’s sacrifice bunt attempt.

Wilson stole second to put runners in scoring position. Fletcher’s single chased them home.

“One of the things we’ve been working on is hitting our pitch, being patient and not swinging at bad pitches,” Fletcher said.

Fournier stroked the lone RBI single in the sixth. It was Monmouth’s fifth and final hit. West and Wilson drew bases-loaded walks to end it.

Lisbon left runners at third in the fourth and fifth innings.

“We were facing one of the best pitchers in the league, and I thought after everybody saw him once, we hit him hard, hit him well, had opportunites,” Ridley said. “It just didn’t work out for us to get a couple runs, but it’s something to really build on. That’s what I’m excited about.”

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