GILMAN - The Mustangs' hitting is still a work in progress.
But with smart baserunning, small-ball mentality and a picky eye at the plate, it never became an issue Wednesday.
Taking advantage of nine walks, three hit batsmen and three Tiger errors, the East Marshall baseball team made the most of its extra opportunities in a 12-2 six-inning rout over South Hardin in North Iowa Cedar League West Division play.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
East Marshall’s Nick Mommer tags up safely at second, while South Hardin’s Sam Shindelar reaches down to apply the tag in the second inning at Gilman Wednesday. The Mustangs pulled away with six runs in the fourth for a 12-2 victory in six innings.
Brock Pieters tossed a complete game allowing just four hits while striking out six as the Mustangs picked up their third straight win and its fourth victory in the last five games.
East Marshall (4-7, 3-0) broke free in the fourth inning using four walks, two errors and just two hits to rack up six runs and grab an 8-2 advantage.
"That's been a struggle for us so far - our pitchers finding the strike zone and then compounding that with errors," South Hardin coach Dick Shindelar said of the fourth inning miscues.
"(East Marshall) didn't hit the ball that inning, we just gave them too many opportunities."
After retiring the first batter in the frame, starter Ryan Mossman was replaced by Kelly Wood and the floodgates opened. Two walks and Nick Long's hard grounder that bounced off the umpire between second and third loaded the bases, before an error on the ensuing grounder put East Marshall in front.
Pieters plated Caleb Benzing with an RBI single, before Long, Dru Boliver and Pieters all scored on wild pitches to stretch the gap to 7-2. The Tigers thought they were through the flurry when first baseman Blake Drury reeled in a high throw to record the third out, though his foot was ruled to be on the safety bag next to first. South Hardin was forced back out of the dugout and another run came through from Nick Mommer before the Tigers could finally escape.
East Marshall's bats came through in their final two at-bats as Mommer capped a three-hit inning with an RBI single in the fifth before the Mustangs tallied three more knocks in the sixth. Long roped a run-scoring single to centerfield, before Mommer came home on a bases-loaded walk. Austin Briney closed it out with a walk-off single as the Mustangs finished with 12 hits.
The Tigers (0-3, 0-2) had a chance at their own big inning in the third when Blake Drury scored on an error, Jordan Wilkie reached on an error and David Shindelar ripped a single to center field. On Shindelar's hit, Wilkie rounded second a bit too far and was tagged out before David Shindelar added a run-scoring single to give the visitors a 2-0 lead though Pieters retired the next batter to minimize the damage.
"Brock has really come on from last year as a pitcher," East Marshall coach Justin Frost said of Pieters escaping the third-inning jam. "Last year Brock would have lost his composure and this year he doesn't get rattled very easily anymore."
East Marshall retaliated with two runs in the bottom of the frame using two steals, a pair of walks and one hit batsmen. Ryan Puumala's sac fly cut the deficit in half and Mommer was hit by a pitch with the bases juiced to bring in Austin DeBondt.
While Mossman's breaking ball gave the Mustangs some trouble at the plate, the off-speed pitches served as a perfect jump-starter for stealing bases once they got on.
"It's just smart baserunning through and through," Pieters said. "Coach Frost tries to pound that through our heads and we just kind of run with it."
Mommer drove in three runs, while Puumala plated two. Long (3-for-4), Austin Briney and Pieters (2-for-4) each brought in a run. Benzing was 2-for-3 as all 12 of the Mustang hits were singles.
"Our hitting is still a work in progress but it's getting better," Frost said. "We just tell the kids to get better everyday."
The Tigers host BCLUW today in a JV/varsity doubleheader starting at 5:30 p.m., while the Mustangs entertain cross-county rival West Marshall Friday at 5:30 p.m. East Marshall will host its own tournament Saturday starting at 9 a.m.
South Hardin right fielder Blaire Donaldson injured his right ankle while coming into second on a standup double in the fourth and had to be carried off the field. "He heard a pop," Coach Shindelar said. "The first thought is that he's going to be out for awhile so we're going to have to fill in for that. He's a spot in the lineup that's going to be tough to replace."