Randall, Trojans slam Hawks
West Marshall downs South Hamilton 10-2 to reach substate final
STATE CENTER — A flare into no-man’s land in shallow right field, a sinking line drive into left field and a pair of balks put the South Hamilton baseball team into the same spot it had been four days earlier against fourth-ranked Dike-New Hartford.
West Marshall managed to stay the course it has been on since the season began, and even before, by trusting its training and putting it on display for one last home game.
Ross Randall hit a two-run double and a grand slam, and Trojan pitchers Ryan Reyerson and Cameron Bannister combined on a four-hitter as West Marshall stifled South Hamilton 10-2 in Saturday’s Class 2A District 13 final.
The Trojans (29-6), who now hold the school’s single-season record for wins, will meet No. 8 Van Meter (29-4) in Marshalltown at 7 p.m. Tuesday night for a chance to advance to the state tournament.
And just as all the baserunners had to get on before Randall could drive them home, West Marshall had to lean on the instincts it worked so hard to instill during the offseason to endure the quick start by the visiting Hawks (10-19).
“I think you could watch us and see we looked pretty tight in that first inning, even at the plate,” said Trojans head coach Jerod Brown. “It was almost advantageous in the second [inning] getting into some trouble and getting out of it, but the big thing that turned it around is once we scored. Once we scored and got the lead we played a lot freer the rest of the game.”
South Hamilton took advantage of the gifts given to them in the top of the first when DJ Klonglan’s blooper to left fell amid a trio of Trojan defenders, and Blake Barquist’s fly to shallow left bounced out of Jake Tollefson’s glove as he made a sliding attempt to snare it. A wild pitch followed by consecutive balks from Reyerson, an eighth-grader, got the Hawks on top 2-0.
A pair of legit singles in the second had South Hamilton in position to press for more, but West Marshall’s defense wriggled out of it. Second baseman Chandler Sponseller took a grounder up the middle and turned a double play, and Reyerson stranded Dugan Swensen after his single by striking out Cole Berg.
That’s when West Marshall’s bats came to life. Parker Hulbert hit a one-out single, Josh Larsen was hit by a pitch and Tollefson walked to load the bases for Randall, the NICL West Division’s Most Outstanding Player. He hammered a double down the left-field line, driving in two after a wild pitch plated Hulbert, and West Marshall surged to the lead 3-2. Bannister bounced a grounder to the right side that scored Randall, and a double by David Disney and a single for Alex Dickey made it 5-2 in a blink.
“It’s not a good feeling but you’ve got six innings left in the game, you’ve just got to bounce back,” Randall said. “Time will tell, but it doesn’t feel very good when they’re dropping hits in like that. We’ve had games like that before and that’s kind of how their game against Dike-New Hartford went.”
South Hamilton, which stunned Dike-New Hartford 2-0 to reach the district finals, was stifled from there. The Hawks had no hits after the second inning, as Reyerson pitched two more shutout frames before Bannister took over and tossed three innings of hitless relief, striking out three.
“It’s one of those things that sticking to your training that you’ve done for months, really relying on the fact that if we play our best that gives us a really good shot to win,” Brown said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s just focusing on our play pitch-to-pitch rather than focusing on the outcome or the score, really just sticking to one pitch at a time.”
The Trojans tacked on, too. Disney plated Tollefson with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and Randall’s grand slam made it 10-2 in the sixth. South Hamilton reliever Garrett Grady walked Sponseller, plunked Hulbert and gave up a bunt single to Larsen to load the bases, and Randall cleared them on an 0-2 fastball one out later.
“He left one over the plate and I had it timed up perfect and my angle was good enough to put it over [the fence],” said Randall, who hit two homers in the Trojans’ original home finale against BCLUW. South Hamilton’s victory against Dike-New Hartford bumped the top seed from the bracket, and the Iowa High School Athletic Association relocated Saturday’s game from Dike to State Center to accomodate both teams.
Randall came to the plate one last time with the sacks jacked in the bottom of the sixth, but Berg induced a flyout to end the inning.
“His approach in his at-bat in the first wasn’t good, but the good thing was he didn’t bring it with him to his second at-bat,” Brown said. “He flushed it, moved on and learned from it and had a really good night at the plate and produced for us big-time. And while he gets those RBIs, the 6-7-8-9 guys got on base for him in a variety of ways.”
The bottom half of West Marshall’s batting order accounted for six of the team’s 10 runs, while Randall finished 2-for-5 with a two-run double, a grand slam and six total RBIs.
“It feels good winning tonight but I don’t really care until we get to the big show,” Randall said.
West Marshall 10,
At State Center
S.Hamilton 200 000 0 — 2 4 1
W.Marshall 050 140 X — 10 9 2
CJ Hewitt, Garrett Grady (5), Cole Berg (6) and Zeke Balderas; Ryan Reyerson, Cameron Bannister (5) and Josh Larsen. W–Reyerson (4-0). L–Hewitt (4-5). 2B–WM: Ross Randall, David Disney. HR–WM: Randall (3). LOB–SH 6, WM 9.