’Cats scratch 7-game itch

Marshalltown ends drought by beating Ames, 11-5

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Marshalltown's Dru Dobbins, right, is congratulated after scoring a run during the Bobcats' five-run fourth inning in Friday's 11-5 victory over Ames at the MHS diamond.

Whether by land or by sea, the Bobcats didn’t care how they got there. Reaching the end of a seven-game losing skid was their only objective, no matter how it happened.

The Class 4A No. 10 Marshalltown baseball team put to rest a daunting stretch of its schedule with an 11-5 victory over Ames in Friday’s cross-CIML clash between former division rivals, ending a drought that began one week earlier.

Having scored a total of two runs in seven consecutive losses, the Bobcats (15-13) broke out of their offensive funk with five runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth on their way to a much-needed triumph. It was Marshalltown’s first win in two weeks and first time scoring in double figures since June 4.

“It’s a different feeling,” MHS head coach Steve Hanson said after the win. “It’s great to get out of there and at least end things with a win.”

Losses to 3A No. 2 Sioux City Heelan, 4A No. 2 Urbandale and No. 1 Johnston started the dry spell for the Bobcats, and Thursday’s doubleheader losses at Mason City sunk Marshalltown below .500 in the CIML Iowa Conference for the first time all season.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Marshalltown courtesy runner Brian Trowbridge (30) is tagged out at home plate by Ames catcher Chris Fowles while trying to score during the fifth inning of Friday's cross-CIML baseball game at MHS.

The losses also prompted a lineup change that had an immediate impact, whether or not the batting order remains the same next week. Senior catcher Kody Ricken led off for the Bobcats for the first time in his career, and it set the table for the team’s best offensive performance in more than three weeks.

“I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, and we’ll have to go assess that, but where we were after getting home [Thursday] night at 12:30, we had to do something different,” said Hanson, “and sometimes change for the sake of change is worthwhile and I think in this case it was.

“You sort of fall into those monotonous periods and we had to shake something up a little bit.”

Marshalltown’s batting order delivered in convincing fashion against Ames (5-20), though the Little Cyclones inflicted themselves with a number of wounds. Ames made five errors behind three different pitchers, and the Bobcats were finally in a position to capitalize.

MHS earned its first two runs, however, as Wade Canaday’s two-out single in the bottom of the first inning brought in Nate Vance, who had walked, to tie the score at 1-all. The run ended a 26-inning scoreless drought for the Bobcats, and appeared to bring some life to the MHS dugout.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Ricken led off the third inning with a double down the left-field line, and his courtesy runner Brian Trowbridge scored on Canaday’s sacrifice fly to put the Bobcats in front for good, 2-1.

Marshalltown scored five unearned runs against Ames starter Kaden Peterson in the fourth, helped by a pair of walks and a bunt single for Tate Kuehner. Vance walked with the bases loaded and two out, Dru Dobbins followed with a run-scoring single up the middle, and Canaday cleared the bases with a double to the gap in left-center field.

The Bobcats sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth and fifth innings, yielding more runs in those two at-bats than the team had scored in its previous 12 games combined.

“Coming into tonight we were on a little bit of a skid and sometimes that stuff begins physically but then it creeps into your mental frame of mind,” Hanson said. “You begin to wonder what you’re doing wrong, but usually you’re never as good as you think you are or bad as you think you might be, so it was good to get out and swing it and run around and do some things tonight we haven’t been able to do in a while.”

Ames reliever Bobby Gens walked Wyatt Himes and Sam Irwin to start the fifth, Kuehner singled again to load the bases and Dylan Eygabroad brought in the first run on a fielder’s choice. Ricken’s hard-hit ball to third was misplayed, plating two runs, and Eygabroad scored the fourth run of the inning on Joseph Harris’ bad-hop grounder to first. Trowbridge was gunned down trying to score on the play as well, but an 11-4 lead proved to be substantial with Vance on the mound.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

The senior left-hander improved to 6-0 on the season but only lasted five innings because of pitch count restrictions. Vance struck out five, walked one and hit one, the latter of which was the ire of Hanson’s postgame interview.

“It’s high school baseball and the more efficient you can be, the better things will be for you,” he said. “Nate Vance is a tremendous competitor, but he hit the No. 9 hitter to lead off an inning, walks the No. 1 to get to their best player and then it unravels a bit from there — and he’s got to be better than that for us to win when we want to win.

“That’s an example of being inefficient at the beginning of a [three-run] inning, which then eliminated him from the sixth inning because of the pitch count thing, and that’s a really fine line because we still have games stacked up next week.”

Harris handled the final two frames, striking out two, walking one and plunking another while allowing two hits and an unearned run.

The Bobcats got outhit 8-7 but got the better of the visiting Little Cyclones on the scoreboard and breathed a small sigh of relief.

“Tonight we needed a win just for a little mental well-being,” Hanson said. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you still put in the same amount of work so when you’re winning it all makes sense, you put in the time and everything aligns and it’s good.

“We’ve played OK, we just haven’t played well enough to beat some really strong opponents.”

Canaday and Kuehner led Marshalltown on this night with two hits apiece, with Canaday driving in five runs and Kuehner scoring twice. Eygabroad added two runs scored as the bottom four batters in the Bobcats’ order accounted for seven runs.

Ames’ Tynan Shahidi went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and three runs scored. Jack Rogers was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, and Josh Ylonen’s only hit was a two-run single in the fifth.

The Bobcats’ grueling schedule continues next week with Monday’s home doubleheader against No. 8 Dowling Catholic and Tuesday’s twinbill against Des Moines Hoover.

Marshalltown 11, Ames 5

At Marshalltown

AMES 100 030 1 — 5 8 5

MHS 101 540 X — 11 7 2

Kaden Peterson, Bobby Gens (5), Carter Biedenbach (6) and Chris Fowles; Nate Vance, Joseph Harris (6) and Kody Ricken. W–Vance (6-0). L–Peterson (3-3). 2B–AMES: Jack Rogers, Tynan Shahidi; MHS: Wade Canaday, Ricken. LOB–AMES 6, MHS 9.