Trojans fend off Mustang attack

STATE CENTER – Todd Verwers has quickly learned in his first season at the helm of the West Marshall softball team there are no off nights in the North Iowa Cedar League. Even if the opponent doesn’t have the most impressive record, every team has to come ready to play each night.

Monday night was no exception when cross-county rival East Marshall came to town for an NICL West showdown. West Marshall plated five runs in the bottom of the third inning, and even then the Trojans needed to add one more in the fifth inning to come away with the 6-5 victory.

“I’ve been around a while,” Verwers said. “Been in tight games, and can tell when it means a little bit more to the kids if they haven’t had success with certain teams in the past. That’s what the atmosphere was tonight. The energy was up. This one meant a little bit more. They had a little bit more incentive to finish things out.”

East Marshall (6-6, 2-2 NICL West) jumped out to an early lead, grabbing two runs in the top of the opening inning. Amanda Paxton singled as did Madison Farrington, and Ellen Hungerford walked, all with two outs to load the bases. Juliana Arifi then drove in Paxton and Melinda Puumala, courtesy running for Farrington, to push the Mustangs out to a 2-0 lead.

West Marshall (6-4, 3-1) strung together six hits for its five-run third inning outburst. Shelby Larsen led off the inning with a single, and came around to score when Kallie Malloy drove her in with a double. Kayla Cripps courtesy ran for Malloy, and Brooke Snider drove Cripps and herself in with a two-run home run. Riley Verwers singled to left and moved over to third on a Georgia Porter double. An RBI sacrifice bunt by Katie Price plated Verwers. After a strike out, Grace Porter drove in Georgia’s courtesy runner, Emma Myer to complete the Trojan scoring.

“When you start two eighth graders and three freshmen, we’re awful young,” said Mustang coach Jary Hoskey. “This is good experience for them. We had 12 hits. We’ll make the play. We are getting better. May not seem like it in the score, but we are getting better and I’m proud of this team.

“We had our chances. Give (the Trojans) credit. They made the plays when they needed to.”

The Mustangs wouldn’t let the Trojans ride off into the setting sun with an easy win. East Marshall responded in the fourth inning with two runs of its own to get within 5-4, again doing the work with two outs.

Maria Rasmusson drove in Emma Wildman and Bobbi Amendt with a two-run double. Hungerford tied the game in the fifth inning at 5-all with a home run for the Mustangs.

Arifi followed, reaching safely all the way at third with one out on an error by Grace Porter in right field, but Arifi would be stranded there.

The Trojans would take the lead back and for good in the bottom of the fifth. Price led off with a single, and advanced to second on the throw in. Grace then hit a one-out single that Price came in to score on.

“Really concentrated with our at-bats,” Coach Verwers said. “We had better at-bats tonight. Better pitch selection and everything. I think, maybe, they realize we might not be a bad team this year.

“We’re getting better. We performed pretty well tonight. There’s still some things we can work at and get better, but it’s starting to come together for us.”

East Marshall had a chance to tie the game in the seventh when Arifi legged out a one-out double, but she again would be stranded when the two batters who followed her went down swinging to end the game. The Mustangs left nine runners on base, seven of which were stranded in scoring position.

Malloy pitched a complete game to tally the win from the pitcher’s circle. She gave up five runs, on 12 hits, walked another two and struck out seven.

Reagan McIlrath took the loss for the Mustangs. She too tossed all seven innings, giving up six runs on 10 hits, walked just one and sat down five.

Both teams are right back in NICL West action tonight. East Marshall hosts BCLUW in Le Grand. BCLUW topped East Marshall 6-3 in Conrad earlier this season. West Marshall travels to Grundy Center. The Trojans took the first meeting with the Spartans 4-3.

“We have no time to practice” Hoskey said. “We have BCLUW coming (tonight), and at Gilbert on Wednesday and travel to South Hardin on Thursday. Then a doubleheader Saturday. Game experience, game time is how we improve and make the little adjustments at that point and time.”