Can’t keep No. 9 ’Cats down

Newly-ranked Marshalltown baseball team splits with No. 2 Johnston in CIML Iowa Conference play

T-R PHOTO BY ANNE VANCE Ñ Marshalltown senior Nate Vance (21) celebrates after scoring what would prove to be the game-winning run in the ninth-ranked BobcatsÕ 5-2 victory over No. 2 Johnston in the second game of MondayÕs CIML Iowa Conference doubleheader at MHS. The defending state champion Dragons won the opener 9-0.

The Bobcats bounced back up off the canvas not once but twice, taking Johnston’s best shots before answering in kind.

The newly-ranked Marshalltown baseball team endured a decisive setback in the first game of Monday’s CIML Iowa Conference showdown with defending Class 4A state champion Johnston, falling 9-0, but fought back the way one of their senior leaders did during a decisive sequence in game two.

Bobcat left-hander Nate Vance took a comebacker off his pitching arm but still retired University of Iowa commit Peyton Williams on a groundout, got back on the mound and helped No. 9 Marshalltown (12-3, 5-1) earn a split by beating No. 2 Johnston (13-4, 5-3) in the nightcap, 5-2.

After flipping the ball to first baseman Dru Dobbins to get Williams for the first out of the third inning, Vance met with head coach Steve Hanson and the athletic trainer, gave them the thumbs-up, tossed a couple warm-up throws and assumed his spot back on the mound. His errant pickoff attempt and a wild pitch plated Dragons leadoff batter Drew Beazley with the game’s first run, but his determination to return to the rubber resonated through the remainder of the game.

“That’s a bad feeling, then you just assess what’s going on and hope that he’s good and he was good,” said Hanson. “He was on a pitch count anyway, so if he didn’t feel good then why push it, but he said he felt OK.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON Ñ Marshalltown senior catcher Kody Ricken, right, tags out JohnstonÕs Peyton Williams on a play at the plate during the first inning in game one of MondayÕs CIML Iowa Conference doubleheader at the MHS diamond.

“He’s just a veteran guy, and he’s been knocked around a little bit, but veteran guys find ways to adapt and change things midstream. … He’s been around, he’s a veteran guy and he’s a really good baseball player.”

Ryan Bohan was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the third, Dylan Eygabroad walked and Vance singled to load the bases. Johnston left-hander Jacob Tobey retired the next two batters on strikes before Wade Canaday came through with a run-scoring single to left, tying the game at 1-all.

Beazley tripled to lead off the fifth and scored on Andrew Nord’s sacrifice fly, but that was the last of the damage the Dragons did. Vance fought out of a sixth-inning jam by getting the lead out at third base on an attempted sacrifice bunt and then started a 1-4-3 double play to thwart the threat.

Canaday came on for the save in the seventh and, despite two-out hits from Williams and Nord, got the job done, striking out cleanup hitter Noah Janssen for the final out.

“That’s a really, really good win when it would have been easy to turn, tuck and run,” said Hanson. “That’s a really good team, a really potent offense, three Division I guys sitting at the top of the order. The difference between games one and two certainly starts on the mound, where it always does.

T-R PHOTO BY ANNE VANCE

“Defensively we weren’t very good in game one and some of that has to do with that our pitchers weren’t very good either. They all go hand-in-hand but Vance did a tremendous job.”

After surrendering the go-ahead run in the fifth, Vance had a hand in the go-ahead rally in the bottom half. Eygabroad started with a single and Johnston replaced Tobey with right-handed submariner Ben Shaver on the mound. Vance slapped a single to right that got Eygabroad to third, and a well-executed double steal plated Eygabroad as the tying run. One out later, Kody Ricken plated Vance as the go-ahead run with a single, Canaday drove a triple to right-center field just out of the reach of Johnston’s defense, and a wild pitch brought Canaday across the plate for a 5-2 advantage.

Vance ended with six strikeouts and three walks over six innings for the win, allowing five hits and two runs while improving to 4-0. He also went 3-for-3 at the plate and scored the eventual game-winning run, while Canaday was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.

“[Vance] did it, he’ll compete, there’s no question about that,” Hanson said, “and a lot of our guys will compete and that’s fun when you can get out there and compete and be successful. That’s why you do all the work.

“It looks like a lot of fun and when you win it is a lot of fun, and I hope our guys never lose sight of the fact that we’re here to compete and we’re here to win. It’s not recreational. It takes a lot of work and a lot of devotion to even get on the field and then to compete with teams like Johnston — the defending state champ and they’re good — you have to do a lot of things right, because if you don’t do a lot of things right it ends up being a 9-0 [loss]. There’s a lot of little things that contributed to winning and losing but our guys aren’t afraid and that’s a great trait to possess.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

In the opener, the Bobcats got bloodied right off the bat as Johnston scored once in the first inning and three times in the second. Kuehner got touched up for three singles in the opening frame and minimized the damage, but the Dragons got rolling in the second.

By the time Beazley went deep for a two-run homer in the seventh, Johnston was on top 9-0.

Kuehner (2-1) went four innings in the loss, allowing eight hits and four earned runs on two walks and two strikeouts. Joseph Harris surrendered one run in two innings of relief work and Ricken got touched up for four unearned runs in the seventh.

The Bobcats got just three hits against Johnston ace Sean Nussbaum (3-0), who struck out five and did not walk a batter. Vance, Kuehner and Wyatt Himes had Marshalltown’s trio of singles, and only Himes advanced as far as third base.

MHS heads back out on the road Wednesday for another clash between CIML Iowa titans as top-ranked Dowling Catholic entertains the Bobcats for a conference doubleheader. Marshalltown hosts Southeast Polk in a Thursday twinbill, and a trip to North Polk awaits the Bobcats on Friday night.

At Marshalltown

Game One

Johnston 9, Marshalltown 0

JOHNSTON 130 001 4 — 9 14 1

MHS 000 000 0 — 0 3 3

Sean Nussbaum, Frankie Cresta (7) and Cade Moss; Tate Kuehner, Joseph Harris (5), Kody Ricken (7) and Ricken, Will Van Buren (7). W–Nussbaum (3-0). L–Kuehner (2-1). 2B–JHN: Reece Anderson 2, Peyton Williams 2, Jackson Vines. HR–JHN: Drew Beazley. LOB–JHN 10, MHS 5.

Game Two

Marshalltown 5, Johnston 2

JOHNSTON 001 010 0 — 2 7 0

MHS 001 040 X — 5 7 2

Jacob Tobey, Ben Shaver (5), Zach Heisterkamp (6) and Moss; Nate Vance, Wade Canaday (7) and Ricken. W–Vance (4-0). L–Shaver (1-1). Sv–Canaday (2). 2B–JHN: Anderson, Andrew Nord, Hayden Sinnett, Moss. 3B–JHN: Beazley; MHS: Canaday. LOB–JHN 8, MHS 4.