The differences separating the Bobcats and the highly ranked Tigers were obvious.
Whether the Marshalltown baseball team improved from Wednesday's experience was a little less clear.
Riding the hot bats of its NCAA Division I-bound duo in game one and making enough plays in the nightcap, Class 4A No. 3-ranked West Des Moines Valley snapped the Marshalltown baseball team's five-game win streak with a doubleheader sweep at the MHS diamond.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown senior Connor Ruddick hangs on to the ball after tagging out Valley’s Connor Sorge at the plate in the third inning of game one. Mason McCarville made the throw home after catching a fly ball in right field.
University of Nebraska commit Ben Miller hit a three-run shot in the first inning and future Hawkeye Tanner Hinkle added his own in the fifth as the Tigers took a 9-5 victory in the opener, before adding a 2-0 win in game two.
"We didn't do enough things to win," MHS coach Steve Hanson said after the Tigers claimed their sixth straight victory.
"They didn't kick the ball, they didn't walk people - we did. They executed better than we did. They got clutch hits when they needed to - we didn't."
Marshalltown (7-6) outhit the Tigers 16-15 in the twinbill, but stranded a combined 16 runners and committed two errors, while Valley had none.
The 'Cats limited Valley (8-2) to its lowest scoring output in the nightcap but struggled to get their own bats going in the process - leaving nine guys on base.
"We didn't get a key hit, we didn't move the ball, we didn't get it on the ground," Hanson said. "We did nothing when he had people on base. We had our opportunities, but we didn't execute - they did."
Parker Johnson put Valley in front with an RBI single in the fourth and Sam Hartman's single produced another run in the sixth.
Ryan Mitchell and Grant Thimesch drew back-to-back walks with two outs in the Bobcats final at-bat, before Nick Nelson induced a flyout from Blake Judkins to seize the sweep.
Nelson struck out six in the final 2 2/3 innings of relief, while giving up one hit and walking two. Drew Denkinger picked up the win allowing four hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.
Austin Sowers turned in a solid 6 1/3 innings allowing two runs on four hits, while both walking and fanning five batters. Ryan Mitchell threw the final 2/3 of an inning allowing one hit, walking one and striking out one.
"He gave us a chance to win," Hanson said of Sowers. "He didn't pitch great, but he pitched well enough to win."
The Bobcats' pitching couldn't find an answer for the Tigers' big bats in the opener.
Miller and Hinkle punished the ball as Miller hit 2-for-2 with a homer, double, two walks, two runs and three RBI, while Hinkle finished 2-of-4 connecting for a home run and double, while scoring twice and driving in four runs. Noah Reddig and Connor Sorge (3B) each tallied a pair of hits, while Ian Fitzsimmons and Jeremy Roehrick both brought in a run.
Miller's long ball gave Valley a quick 3-0 lead, which stretched to 7-1 after Hinkle's homer. Hunter Hillygus gave the Bobcats a jolt with a three-run shot in the seventh and finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and 4 RBI. Ryan Mitchell, Grant Thimesch, Dylan Diveney and Blake Judkins each added a pair of hits as Marshalltown had 11 in the opener. Judkins drove in a run, while Diveney had a double.
Alex Dornacker went the distance for Valley allowing five runs on 11 hits, while striking out five and walking two. Diveney surrendered nine runs (eight earned) on nine hits, walked four and fanned one in the loss. Derek Mann threw the final inning of relief with a strikeout and walk.
Following Marshalltown's sweep over Ames on Monday, Hanson knew the next two tests against Valley and Class 2A No. 2 North Polk Friday, would tell a lot about his team and be a valuable opportunity to improve against the best.
Though deciphering the early returns from Wednesday's doubleheader was still unclear.
"I'm not sure," Hanson said on if his team improved against Valley. "There are several areas where we did not improve."
The Bobcats have another chance to make some strides when they host North Polk Friday at 7 p.m. The Comets blanked Class 4A's top-ranked Ankeny - the defending state champion - 3-0 earlier this season.
"We need to be willing to come back here and show some grit. We haven't really done that yet," Hanson said. "You have to be able to work enough to improve so that the same kinds of mistakes don't occur the next time."
The Bobcats entered on a five-game win streak including doubleheader sweeps of Ames and Des Moines North, along with a makeup game victory over NewtonMHS piled up a season-high 14 runs in their game one win against the Little Cyclones MondayThe Tigers posted an 11-0, 3-0 sweep over eighth-ranked Johnston MondayValley has two players headed to Division I programs in Hinkle (University of Iowa) and Miller (University of Nebraska). Miller is ranked as a top-500 national recruit and the No. 48 left-handed pitcher in the country by Perfect GameValley won four straight state championships from 2003-2006 and reached the semifinals last year. They split a doubleheader with Class 4A No. 6 Dowling Catholic earlier this season.