A huge upcoming week on the diamond for the Marshalltown Community College baseball team started with a splash off the field.
The Tigers received commitments Monday from a pair of Marshalltown High School seniors in Jimmy Six and T.J. Flanagan.
"It's a big day for our program," said Marshalltown Community College head coach Rich Grife, adding the Tigers already have freshman outfielder Zach Thompson and are working on adding more MHS players to the program. "They know how to win, they are great players and are from here in town. That's a big deal to us."
T-R PHOTO BY MARK PAWLAK
Marshalltown High School seniors T.J. Flanagan, seated second from left, and Jimmy Six, third from left, signed their letters of intent Monday to play baseball at Marshalltown Community College. Also pictured are, clockwise from seated left, are Flangan’s parents Terri Cutler and Craig Flanagan, MCC head baseball coach Rich Grife, Jimmy’s father John Six, Marshalltown High School head baseball coach Steve Hanson, and Jimmy’s mother Jackie Six.
Six and Flanagan were key cogs on a Bobcat team that went 27-13 last summer and was the Class 4A state runner-up.
"I've seen these kids since when I first moved to town and I managed Game 7. They were all running out there at that time," Grife said. "They couldn't get enough, it was baseball, baseball, baseball. Now in high school they have had the success because they have been working at it so long."
The Tigers are coming off winning two of four at conference leader Iowa Western over the weekend. MCC faces an Iowa Central squad Tuesday and Thursday that has been to the Division II World Series six times in the last nine years; takes on Division II No. 4 DMACC Wednesday and closes out conference play Saturday and Sunday against Muscatine with a chance to move up in the league standings.
"It's close to home to start," Flanagan said about his college choice, "and the program, it's on its way up. I liked Coach Grife and the whole coaching staff."
Six, a left-handed pitcher, was the Bobcats' go-to guy at the end of his junior season.
"I liked everything about MCC," Six said. "The coaches are great and the facility is great also. Ever since I visited I pretty much was interested in coming here."
Six paced Marshalltown's pitching staff as he went 6-3 with a 2.02 ERA. In 59 innings pitched, Six allowed 50 hits and struck out 61, while not surrendering a home run all summer.
"I think as the season went on last year he got in better shape and as he got in better shape he gained a great command of the things he always possessed but was somewhat erratic with," said Marshalltown head coach Steve Hanson. "He gained a little better control, a little bit of velocity and by the time the summer ended he had a lot of colleges interested in what he can do."
Six was dominant in the postseason, winning Marshalltown's two substate games and opening round state tournament matchup against Sioux City North. In those three games, Six threw 19 2/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out 20.
"He's going to have two great years for us," Grife said. "We watched him all through the fall and summer and he's got front of the rotation stuff."
Flanagan - a catcher/infielder/pitcher - hit .427 with 50 hits, 15 doubles, 32 RBIs and 15 stolen bases as a junior to receive second team all-district honors at catcher.
"T.J. can play everyday for us and I know he can swing (the bat)," Grife said. "He's going to have a chance to prove it everyday."
His 15 doubles led the team and put him seventh on the single-season school chart. He finished second on the team in both batting average and hits.
"He has a really great baseball mind. He really understands what's going on and because of that type of intelligence he's able to play a variety of positions and do so very well," Hanson said. "He's able to catch and play in the infield. We've never played him in the outfield but I'm sure he probably could. He'll throw for us and be one of the pitchers we'll rely on this summer."
Thompson helped bring Flanagan aboard.
"Me and him have always been good friends," Flanagan said. "He started the recruiting process basically. He told Grife about me I'm sure a lot, he just helped the whole situation."
Flanagan was second on the team in innings pitched (44) for the Bobcats in 2008 and had a 4-1 record with a 3.66 ERA.
One of Flanagan's pitching wins came in the state semifinals against Burlington. Four players from that game - TJ Werner, Josh Caffrey and Tyler Pflum of Burlington and Thompson of MHS - are freshmen starters on the MCC squad.
Potentially up to 10 future Tigers took the field that night in Des Moines, Grife said. "You could tell that they were all very good players and we're happy to have them," he added.
The first day for high school baseball practice across the state is next Monday. The Bobcats open the season May 26 at Johnston in a rematch of the state championship game.
"Hopefully this year we can do the same and just get one more step in and actually win that final game," Six said.