Marshalltown reeled in the highest scoring team in Class 4A, only to watch fourth-ranked Des Moines East throw the hook.
One of the state's most prolific baseball teams had already done enough damage offensively to keep the Bobcats at bay, and the Scarlets held on for an 8-6 victory on Friday night at the MHS diamond.
A four-run first inning and a three-run sixth provided the punch Des Moines East needed to improve to 32-3 on the year, and left-hander Colby Carmichael endured the most runs he's allowed on the mound to gain his eighth win.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Marshalltown junior pitcher Austin Sowers, left, delivers to the plate as Des Moines East’s Chino Alcala leads away from second base during the first inning Friday at the MHS diamond. Sowers pitched a season-high seven innings in the 8-6 loss.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
But not until relievers Dillon Glass and Robert Hansen came on in the bottom of the seventh to help the Scarlets stave off an unrelenting Marshalltown club.
The Bobcats cut East's initial four-run lead in half in the bottom of the first, fell behind 8-3 after six innings yet came up with a late rally that put a scare into the Scarlets.
Marshalltown (15-20) loaded the bases for the heart of the batting order and even put the potential tying run on base, but the three-run surge fell just short of providing the Bobcats with another life.
Bobcat junior righty Austin Sowers (1-6) went the distance in the loss, eclipsing 120 pitches during his season-high seven innings. He allowed eight runs - six earned - on 11 hits and three walks with no strikeouts, but kept plugging along against a Des Moines East squad that entered the matchup averaging better than nine runs per game.
"East is a slow-pitch softball team," MHS coach Steve Hanson said. "Powerful - look at their numbers, they've got home runs you don't see these days. Coming in they're really good offensively, so I'd give Austin Sowers a lot of credit for showing some resiliency and just hanging.
"When things weren't going great and maybe he couldn't find the strike zone or maybe we weren't making plays defensively, he just kept pitching, and that was really pleasing to see because his last couple outings haven't been that great. He slowed them down enough to where we had an opportunity in the last inning, and that's about all you can ask for."
Marshalltown made good on its final chance to chase down the Scarlets, scoring three times in the bottom of the seventh. One out in, Connor Ruddick reached on a dropped third strike that was the end of Carmichael's night. Pinch-hitter Colton Hanke reached on catcher's interference and Grant Thimesch walked on four pitches, and Ryan Mitchell beat out East's attempt to double him up on a grounder to short.
Hunter Hillygus followed with a single back through the middle, driving in Sowers (who returned to run for Hanke) and chasing Glass from the mound.
The tying run stepped to the plate in the person of Blake Judkins, and he greeted Hansen's first pitch with a single to left-center to drive in Mitchell from second. But East's top right-hander got some help from shortstop Conner Enochs on Mason McCarville's grounder into the hole, as Enochs made a strong throw from his back foot to beat McCarville to first and end the uprising.
Carmichael struck out eight and walked two, allowing six hits for the win. Hansen got the final out for the save. East's lineup produced 11 hits against Sowers, six of which went for extra bases. Carmichael's bases-loaded triple in the first was followed by an Austin Robbins double, and the Scarlets struck hard right off the bat.
Sowers retired eight straight at one point, getting help from a over-the-shoulder catch from Michael Schrempf in left field and a diving grab by McCarville in right.
"He got hit around a little bit, but you're going to get hit around a little bit," Hanson said. "We're not throwing a shutout against Des Moines East. Given what we knew coming in I thought he did a nice job."
East leadoff hitter Malique Ziegler finished 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, while Dillon Hernandez and Tyler Aswegan both had two hits as well.
Thimesch, Moranville and Hillygus had two hits apiece, while Judkins was 1-for-4 but drove in two runs. Ruddick had Marshalltown's only other hit, scoring on Thimesch's two-out double in the fifth.
"(Carmichael) is their best guy, and the guy that finished (Hansen) is their next best pitcher and they've won a boatload of games because they have those two guys," Hanson said, "but I thought we got some really good swings off against both of them. They have better-than-average velocity, yet we were able to step up and not be blown up by their velocity."
The four runs allowed by Carmichael are the most he has surrendered in any outing this season.
The Bobcats will take two shots at another ranked foe today, as MHS will play its final Central Iowa Conference Northern Division doubleheader at No. 6 Fort Dodge. The twinbill starts at 1 p.m. and will go a long way to determine the conference title as both have 6-4 league records.
Fort Dodge (21-14) has lost its last five straight, and six of seven, but the Dodgers boast an 18-game winning streak against Marshalltown that dates back to the Bobcats' 2008 substate final victory.
The last conference crown for MHS came in 2002, when the Bobcats went on to win the state championship.
"It's late in the season, every game's an important game because each one ducktails off the other to get you to a place where you can hopefully put it all together," Hanson said. "I think we have something to play for every time we come out here. We don't need a banner or a title like that. If that's what you need to motivate you then we're in the wrong business because this is a lot about discipline and coming out every day.
"I've got faith in our guys that they're going to come back ready to go, they're going to give good effort, they need to give us their best effort all the time, and if they do that then put your chips in the middle of the table and play because that's what it's about. If you're hesitant or reluctant or apprehensive at this point in the season it's going to be a short season.
"We've got to go hang it out, go play and be more aggressive than they are."