STATE CENTER - The celebration was over before it even began, but the accomplishment was enough in itself.
The West Marshall baseball team got the last two outs of a suspended game more than two weeks old - and two months in the making - to clinch the NICL West Division title outright, only to see South Tama win the less impactful second game, 6-2, on Monday night.
It was followed by a West Marshall loss to Nevada, 15-2 in five innings, as the hometown Trojans made it a tripleheader of sorts in order to squeeze the STC contests into their already jam-packed schedule.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
West Marshall’s Dylan Petermeier slides in safely as the ball gets away from South Tama catcher Noah Bearden, right, during the fourth inning of Monday’s NICL West Division baseball game in State Center. South Tama won the game, 6-2, but not before West Marshall closed out its 7-3, 10-inning win to clinch the NICL West championship for the second time in three seasons.
West Marshall and South Tama were supposed to meet in the NICL West opener back on May 28, but that was wiped out by rain. When they finally collided on June 14 for a doubleheader in Tama, lightning delayed and then suspended what had become a 7-3 West Marshall lead through nine and a half innings.
The two teams picked up Monday where they left off, with West Marshall needing only two outs to get the win that would clinch the NICL West championship for the second time in the last three seasons.
Nolan Sinning resumed his place on the mound and got the job done, despite some minor drama, and West Marshall (17-6, 12-2) shared high fives briefly before going back out to take on STC (16-6, 10-3) again.
"It was nice, it's a great accomplishment for the kids and for all the time we put in during the offseason," said West Marshall coach Jerod Brown, who was an assistant to Aaron Burdorf when the Trojans took the NICL West title in 2011. "It was kind of odd circumstances for this to happen. Normally you get to savor it a little bit, but instead we had to turn it around and play a very good South Tama team again and then a very good Nevada team.
"Everybody has been thinking about this game for a while, so it was good to finish it up and get it taken care of. There's been some adversity so it was good for the kids to achieve this."
It was a good thing for West Marshall it was able to close the door on the four-run lead it arrived with in the opener, because South Tama sophomore Dalton Doyle didn't allow the other Trojans much in the second game. The right-hander gave up four hits, two walks and a hit batsman over the complete-game performance, striking out nine in the 6-2 victory.
South Tama's win assured it second place in the conference standings. Wednesday's home game with Gladbrook-Reinbeck will determine whether or not STC has to share the runner-up honor with East Marshall.
"We knew it was going to be tough to come here being down that many runs and try and get that first game," said STC head coach Seth Koch, "but I was proud of the way they bounced back in that second game.
"We talked about that, if we didn't win that first game, we could finish anywhere from second to third, and we want to finish second by ourselves, so we've made that our new goal."
South Tama touched West Marshall eighth-grader Ross Randall and his defense for two runs in the top of the first inning. Randall hit leadoff batter Kolton Smith with the first pitch of the game, made an errant pickoff throw to first, and Grant Koch slapped a one-out single through the right side for a 1-0 STC lead. One out and another error later, Sam Kuhter found the same hole for an RBI single, putting the visitors in front 2-0.
Doyle tossed three perfect frames before Justin Weitzell walked to lead off the fourth inning, and Dylan Petermeier broke up the no-hitter with his ensuing single to left. Weitzell was picked off at second moments before Jared Riemenschneider belted a double to the gap in right-center field to cut the deficit in half, but Doyle retired the next two batters on strikes to thwart the rally.
STC tacked on a run in the sixth when Colson Frakes got a one-out double and scored on Smith's single down the first-base line. The Trojans got three more in the seventh - against Sinning, no less - courtesy of a Tank Keckler single, two walks and two West Marshall errors.
West Marshall pieced together two hits with a walk in the seventh to score its final run, as Garrett Goodwin came around on Alex Billman's blooper to left.
Doyle surrendered two two-hit innings - West Marshall's run-scoring at-bats - but no base hits outside of those frames to improve to 5-1 on the year.
"Dalton had a nice outing and we didn't make an error," Coach Koch said. "If you can play errorless baseball at the high school level you're going to win 75 percent of your games.
"We've stressed pitching and defense all year. We're not the greatest offensive team in the world but we got some timely hits."
Kuhter finished 2-for-3 with a run, an RBI and two stolen bases to lead STC offensively. Kaleb Davenport also had a single.
Randall (1-2) took the loss, allowing three runs on six hits, three walks and three hit batsmen over 5 1/3 innings. Sinning surrendered one hit and three unearned runs in his 1 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out one.
"We're just trying to stay with the process and improve every game," Brown said. "Doyle did a very nice job, he's a very quality pitcher, and so is Colynn Black from Nevada. We saw two good arms, which is really good for us moving forward with games against North Polk and Ballard this week.
"It's going to set us up so, even though we might take some lumps, that we see consistent, good pitching and play good teams every night. It might not be great for some guys' egos but in some different ways I hope it helps them adjust to what we're going to see in the tournament."
West Marshall visits Class 2A No. 2 North Polk tonight and Ballard on Wednesday. South Tama goes to Jesup this evening and closes out its NICL West slate with a make-up game against Gladbrook-Reinbeck on Wednesday night in Tama.