Mustangs win rubber match
East Marshall defeats host BCLUW in district opener between conference foes
BEAMAN — Lawn chairs and picnic blankets surrounded the baseball field in Beaman on Saturday evening as the Comets and Mustangs faithful turned out in droves to watch East Marshall take on BCLUW in the opening round of the Class 2A District 13 tournament.
Of course only one fan base was able to walk away happy at the end of the night, and after splitting the regular season series, East Marshall took the rubber match over BCLUW 8-2, eliminating the Comets from the postseason.
Two individuals shone brightly for the Mustangs (8-20), as junior Justin Ridout was outstanding on the mound — giving up only one run off four hits and striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings — and fellow junior Zane Johnson went 5-for-5 in the leadoff spot with three runs scored.
After the win, Ridout said he was more focused on winning this game for the older guys on the squad, rather than his personal glory.
“I was mainly just doing it for the seniors,” Ridout said, breathless from taking a couple laps around the outfield after the win. “Our season hasn’t really gone how we wanted it to this year, so I just wanted to get them into another round.”
Johnson had a similar motivation for his performance, saying he knew he “had nothing to lose” and he wanted to do it for the team.
“We have been in a little slump lately, and I personally have been in a three game slump where I hadn’t got a hit and it was really nice getting back on track,” Johnson said after receiving congratulations from his grandfather. “This was the best time to get so many hits too.”
East Marshall head coach Justin Frost said both Ridout and Johnson have been a big part of any success his team has experienced, and they both showed up when the lights shown brightest.
“I thought our approaches were really good, we looked to attack early in the count and not cheat ourselves,” Frost said. “We really made it aware to the kids that this could be it, so we wanted to attack offensively and defensively I thought Justin pitched extremely well. Maybe got into a little trouble with a few walks here and there but he worked his way out of a few jams and the defense played well behind him.
“Zane is our catalyst, it has been that way all year. As Zane goes we go, and tonight he was really good. Really set the tone for the ballgame in his first inning at bat.”
Coming into the game with 12 more losses than wins, there weren’t a lot of people picking East Marshall to take this game from the 14-11 Comets, but Frost said when no one has any expectations, you can go out and leave it all on the diamond.
“That is what we have been stressing all week, we are the six seed so there is nothing for us to lose,” Frost said. “We are going to go out and play as hard as we can, play loose and see what happens.”
Junior Blake Mann took the loss on the mound for BCLUW, going five innings while giving up six runs off 10 hits and striking out five. Outside of the first two innings, where East Marshall scored six of their eight runs, Mann had a good outing for the Comets, and head coach Matt Zoske said it was a good effort from his lefty pitcher.
“He was fine in the first two, we just made a lot of mistakes and they had a lot of infield singles that we just couldn’t do anything about,” Zoske said. “It is frustrating but those don’t really hurt you unless you compound those with walks and errors, and we had way too many errors and misplays in those first two innings that put us into too big of a hole.”
While BCLUW obviously isn’t thrilled with the early exit from the postseason, Zoske said he is still proud of what his team accomplished this year.
“Coming into this season we knew we were going to be better,” Zoske said of the Comet’s improvement. “We had a much, much tougher schedule so I wasn’t sure our record would be better but it was, so that was great. We finished second in the conference, which was great since I don’t think anyone was going to catch West Marshall, so it was a great season. I told the guys this one hurts now but it will fade away and they will see this season for what it was, a great season.”
North Iowa Cedar League West champions West Marshall are the next opponents on deck for the Mustangs, a team East Marshall has lost two twice during the regular season. While facing a juggernaut like the Trojans might send shivers down the spines of others, Ridout said he relishes a chance to knock off his county rival.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in one year,” he said with a confident grin. “If we come out hitting like we did today I think we should be fine.”
As for the plan heading into Tuesday’s matchup, Frost said he wants his guys to continue playing relaxed and confident baseball.
“We just want to play good, hard, old fashioned baseball and we will see what happens,” Frost said. “A break here or there and maybe something special could happen.”
The game between East Marshall and West Marshall for the right to play in the district finals is set for a 5 p.m. start on Tuesday in Dike.