DES MOINES - Marshalltown baseball coach Steve Hanson and graduated senior Blake Judkins did not come to Des Moines this weekend to win two games in the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association's Iowa All-Star Series.
The Bobcats traveled to the capital city with the rest of the Large School West All-Star squad to win four and take home the tournament championship.
And they are halfway there after recording two convincing wins over both small school all-star teams on Thursday and Friday.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown baseball coach Steve Hanson, center, talks over strategy with Marshalltown’s Blake Judkins, left, and Southeast Polk’s Phil Velez during the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association’s All-Star series at Principal Park on Friday. Hanson, Judkins and Velez are a part of the Large School West team which is currently 2-0 in the tournament. The Large School West all-stars beat the Small School East all-stars, 8-3, on Friday.
"We are halfway home," Hanson said. "We didn't come here to win two games. We have done that. We want to win four games.
"Competing in this tournament is a tough deal because nobody really knows anybody, but everyone is good. You just kind of have to get the teams to mesh really quickly. We had an hour and a half practice yesterday and have played two games."
So far so good though. The Large School West all-stars defeated the Small School West all-stars 8-1 Thursday and then stayed unbeaten with an 8-3 victory over the Small School East squad Friday.
Next up will be a showdown with the Large School East all-stars at 5:30 p.m. today at West Des Moines Valley.
Sunday's slate of games at West Des Moines Valley will feature a third-place game at 10 a.m. and a 12:30 p.m. championship.
With the large margin of victory in each win for the Large School West, it will take a very bad defeat Saturday for them not to be in the championship game Sunday.
But with a team loaded with Division I talent, that just doesn't seem possible.
"This is a team that can really run and can really hit," Hanson said. "We had 16 hits yesterday and scored eight runs. We scored eight today and stranded the bases loaded twice. We were a hit or two away from about 12 runs. There is some solid talent in our dugout. It is a pleasure to work with these guys. They are good."
Judkins went 2-for-2 and started at shortstop in the opener Thursday. He drove in a run and was hit by a pitch in two of his three plate appearances Friday.
"He is doing well," Hanson said of his now former Bobcat. "He fits in well and he is respectable. I think he has had a really good time and he is making some new friends. He has played competently, too."
It has been Judkins' dream to play at Principal Park. The Bobcats were not fortunate enough to play there at the state tournament, but the MHS graduate made it there anyway.
"This is where I have always wanted to play, and here we are," said Judkins. "It has been a great experience. It will be nice going out with a nice experience like this."
The Large School West squad jumped out in front early with two runs in the first inning.
West Des Moines Valley star Tanner Hinkle, who will play at the University of Iowa, got things started with a walk and then stole second before scoring on Jacob Lamoreux's RBI single.
Michael Knouse walked two straight batters and then hit Judkins to load the bases but got out of the jam after striking out Denison's Robert Lyons.
The small school squad didn't fold up the tent though.
Cole Crawford walked to begin the second and then took second on a single by Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont's Christian Bambrook. Both runners moved up following an infield single by Jordan Baughman (Chariton) and Caleb Morgan (Pella Christian) put them on the board with an RBI single against Large School West starter Tyler Vaughn of Fort Dodge.
Vaughn came back with a strikeout but a ground out to Judkins plated another run for the small schools. Prior to that ground out, Judkins allowed the tying run to score when he committed a throwing error to second base from his knees.
"He was trying to make a play, but it wasn't something you could do anything with," Hanson said. "At Marshalltown, we have to try to save runs when we can. Here, we don't have to try to make a play. Because we'll come up with double-digit hits at the plate."
Like he always does, Judkins bounced back in the third inning with an unassisted 6-3 double play. He was errorless the rest of the way and added an RBI at the plate in the bottom of the third inning.
"You just got to put it behind and make the next play. You just have to stay strong," said Judkins. "We have been hitting the ball great. The pitching is outstanding, and we have pretty good team chemistry too."
The winners went down in order in the second but that explosive offense got going in the third.
West Des Moines Valley's Ben Miller, a Nebraska recruit, singled to start the frame and then moved up a base on Aaron Krier's (Storm Lake) infield single. An error by the small school east squad loaded the bases and then Blake Meacham of Sioux City North tied the game with an RBI hit. Judkins followed with what proved to be the game-winner as Krier came across the plate.
Krier scored another run all by himself in the fifth inning. He reached on an infield single, took second on an error by Knouse, stole third and then sprinted home after the throw down to third went by the third baseman.
Southeast Polk's Phil Velez had a one-out triple in the sixth and then scored on an RBI single by Storm Lake's Ethan Kenkel, a South Dakota State recruit. His pinch runner - Hinkle - later scored on an RBI triple by Lamoreux of LeMars. Lamoreux then scored another insurance run on Miller's run-producing ground out to first base.
Vaughn went the distance for the winners, striking out eight and allowing three earned runs. Knouse of Davenport Assumption took the loss and was pulled in the sixth inning in favor of Wapello's Gage Carpenter.
Hanson, who is serving as an assistant coach to Denison-Schleswig's Don Lyons, said the coaching staff has been successful at getting everyone on the roster into the game in the first two victories. That has been the goal and the plan, and he hopes that continues over the weekend, but recognized that it's not always easy to do.
The Large School West squad also features Ankeny's Matt Johnson, who will play at South Dakota State, and Ankeny's Nick Belzer. Belzer signed with Indiana State this past year but has been released from his scholarship after coach Rick Heller took over the Iowa baseball job. ... Other CIML players on the roster include Dowling Catholic's Grant Otte and Waukee's Jordan Niehaus. The other assistant coach is Brian Dirkx of Spencer. ... The Large School East squad features first-team all-state selections Derek Burkamper of Muscatine, Brandon Engler of North Scott and Reid Bonner of Iowa City West as well as second-team selections Ezra Reiners of Iowa City West and Cody Collender of Clinton.