Vance stifles Newton; Bobcats win opener
For the second consecutive year, the Marshalltown baseball team got its season started off with a mark in the win column.
Fueled by an expert pitching performance from junior Nate Vance, and seven hits tallied by the Bobcat offense, Marshalltown shutout visiting Newton 5-0 in the regular-season opener at home.
Vance (1-0) made it seven full innings, giving up two hits — including a single to center on the first pitch of the 2017 season — and struck out nine batters on his way to the win. He, along with six other Bobcats (1-0) collected hits to upend the Cardinals (0-1) Tuesday night.
“As always, it starts on the mound. And when you get a good performance there, it makes everything else easy,” said MHS head coach Steve Hanson. “We played pretty good defense, we ran the bases pretty well, we had some timely hitting, [but] we were sluggish at the plate. Typically, though, pitchers are a little ahead of hitters early in the year, and that showed through for us in the first three innings.”
Vance gave up one of his two singles on the first pitch of the game, but settled in with a strikeout of Newton’s Trevor Ergenbright. Vance then walked Tyler Stanton before striking out three of the next four batters in the first two innings.
His second and only other hit of the night came with the leadoff batter in the top of the third, a single by Jaron Rousch. But Vance didn’t let him spend too much time on first, as he picked him off on the following batter.
Brennen Dodd had the lone stolen base in the first inning against Vance and the Bobcats. MHS catcher Kody Ricken threw out Ergenbright to end the third as he tried to steal as well.
Vance went on to strikeout five more batters, including two of the final three in the top of the seventh in six pitches to close out the night.
Offensively, the Bobcats took a while to warm up, but with a little help from Newton’s starting hurler, Trey Vanderlaan, Marshalltown began to take advantage.
Ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Miguel Torrez reached on a dropped third strike. Two batters later, Tate Kuehner laid down a precise bunt and with a HBP on Sam Irwin, the bases were loaded for Vance to tally one of his two RBIs with a 4-3 groundout.
Ricken followed Vance with a two-run RBI double to give the Bobcats a 4-0 lead. The only issue that matted the Bobcats’ offensive power was getting runners in once they were in scoring position. Vance hit Irwin in the third inning from first base, and as a team, Marshalltown was 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Hanson said unfortunately with the quick turnaround and demanding schedules of high school athletes, there might not be much help in turning more of those opportunities into runs.
“That’s really hard. It’s very difficult to make major adjustments with hitters in high school,” Hanson said. “Mainly because you don’t have the time to do it. By the time the flaw exposes itself, there’s another game and another game. Then a practice and another game. So, correcting hitting deficiencies is really a tough thing to do.
“Our knowledge of the strike zone tonight was pretty good. There were times, however, when we chased balls out of the zone and maybe that’s a first-game thing. I hope so, because it’s a difficult thing to correct.”
Hanson said despite the 43 percent mark in the RISP category, five runs were plenty enough to get the win. Vanderlaan made it five innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs and struck out three Bobcats.
“If they don’t score, you don’t lose. That’s a truism,” Hanson said. “In this case, Vance was very, very good tonight. Threw it well, worked runners well, and gave Ricken a chance. If you do that, we feel really good about our chances.”
The Bobcats will dive right back into action Thursday night with a doubleheader against Waterloo East at home, starting at 5 p.m.
Marshalltown 5, Newton 0
Newton 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
MHS 001 031 X — 5 7 1
Trey Vanderlaan, No. 12 and Ryan Barr; Nate Vance and Kody Ricken. W — Vance (1-0). L — Vanderlaan (0-1). 2B–MHS: Vance, Ricken. LOB–Newton 3, MHS 4.