Book closes on Bobcats’ run

Marshalltown’s whirlwind season ends

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - The Marshalltown baseball team somberly accepts its state participant trophy after falling to Urbandale in the first round of the Iowa High School State Baseball Tournament on Wednesday in Des Moines. The Bobcats lost to the J-Hawks, 8-3, to end their season and their first trip to state in nine years.

DES MOINES — The little team that could nearly did.

The Marshalltown High School baseball team left its tornado-ravaged home with dreams of a state tournament victory but returned home with a state participant trophy after an 8-3 defeat at the hands of second-ranked Urbandale on Wednesday night.

The Bobcats earned the program’s first trip to Principal Park in nine years in a joyous celebration a week earlier, only to see their town decimated by a tornado the following day. Donating their time to help people in need, the Marshalltown baseball team was unable to fulfill its own needs during the Class 4A quarterfinals at the Iowa High School State Baseball Tournament.

Urbandale (34-6) scored five times in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 3-all tie, and the J-Hawks rode into the state semifinals. The Bobcats (20-19) rode the bus home with a trophy to represent Marshalltown’s 12th summer state tournament appearance.

“We’ve had a lot of really good teams and a lot of really good players that never had this opportunity,” said MHS head coach Steve Hanson. “But we’re not content that we got here. We didn’t come out here to have a nice time, we wanted to win — and for a good portion of that game we put ourselves in a position to do that. We just couldn’t close the door on it and that’s baseball.”

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Marshalltown catcher Kody Ricken, left, looks on as Urbandale celebrates after scoring during its five-run sixth inning of Wednesday’s Class 4A state quarterfinal baseball game at Principal Park in Des Moines.

And for Marshalltown’s 10 graduated seniors, that’s the last time they’ll play the game in a Bobcat uniform.

Few took the loss harder than Nate Vance, Marshalltown’s starting pitcher. The senior who will play golf at Loyola-Chicago in the fall wanted nothing more than to bring a win back to his hometown, but Urbandale’s bats got to him in the sixth inning and put the game out of reach.

“I wanted to finish the game on the mound and I wanted to be ahead on the scoreboard, but sports are humbling, that’s why I play them,” said Vance, the Bobcats’ diminutive left-hander who had stood tall on the mound all postseason. “You’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are. That’s what coach Hanson always says.

“Just playing for the Bobcats you learn more life lessons than any other sport, than any other thing I’ve ever done, and I’m pretty grateful for those things. There’s nothing I wanted worse than to go out and get a win tonight just because that would have been awesome.”

For nearly five innings, it most certainly was. Urbandale captured a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Carter Troncin hit a Vance changeup to the club seats in left field, but the Bobcats had an answer.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Dylan Eygabroad’s leadoff single set the table in the top of the third against Urbandale fireballer Luke Patzner, and Vance reached on a fielder’s choice. Sam Irwin singled through the right side as Vance took off for second base, and Dru Dobbins drove them both home with a long fly ball to left.

Dobbins, the Bobcats’ burly first baseman, was wide-eyed as he rounded third base when Wade Canaday’s line drive to left found its way into the gap for an RBI double.

In the blink of an eye, the Bobcats were on top for their hometown that had just suffered an immeasurable low.

“That was great, I didn’t even realize my run put us up 3-2 until the crowd was going crazy,” said Dobbins. “When I turned around and saw that, it was amazing.

“There was kind of a lot of pressure on our shoulders because the town was counting on us, but they know we gave it our best and I think everybody understands that.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“We knew we weren’t supposed to win, we’re the underdogs and we had nothing to lose so we gave it everything we had and I guess that’s just how it goes.”

But Marshalltown missed its chance to expand its lead against Patzner and Urbandale’s other right-handed ace Luke Llewellyn. Luke Appel led off the fourth inning with a double, Eygabroad got on with a bunt single, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch after Llewellyn had taken the mound in relief.

The J-Hawks, in trying to keep their top two pitchers eligible to potentially throw in Saturday’s championship game, made a switch that happened to work out perfectly. Vance struck out trying to drop down a suicide squeeze bunt, and Llewellyn got Irwin on strikes, too, to escape the jam.

Urbandale pulled even in the bottom of the fifth after Vance plunked Lucas Strain, and pinch-runner Joshua Neyens came around on Brook Heinen’s two-out single to left.

Heinen had also reached on a walk in front of Troncin’s two-run homer in the first.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, it doesn’t matter what level you’re playing at, if you give them extra opportunities at some point it’s going to jump up and get you,” said Hanson. “Vance wasn’t trying to walk or hit anybody and he’ll tell you as much, but we minimized those situations early and did a great job of working runners and playing the game and doing it right. We just ran out of fuel at the end.”

Urbandale tagged Vance for a pair of singles and a bases-loaded triple by Casey Steen was the crushing blow, not to mention a pair of errors that led to Ty Cowley’s little league home run.

Canaday retired the only two batters he faced in relief of Vance, who tried to keep the loss in perspective while wearing a Bobcat uniform for the last time.

“They were the better team tonight and it sucks to say that because I really wanted to get a win, but I wouldn’t want it to end anywhere else than Principal Park,” said Vance. “I’m grateful we were able to play our last game here. Over the years I’ve been extremely blessed to be a Bobcat, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m extremely proud to call Marshalltown my home.

“I don’t think all the tornado stuff was any added pressure — it was all motivation. We had a huge crowd. It was really an awesome night except for the outcome.”

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

Llewellyn struck out five and allowed only three singles over his 3 2/3 innings of relief. Patzner also struck out five and allowed five hits — though four of them in Marshalltown’s three-run third inning.

Urbandale finished with 10 hits, with Noah Cook, Ben DeKruyf and Steen each coming up with two of them.

The J-Hawks advance to face Western Dubuque (34-9), as the sixth-seeded Bobcats beat third-seeded North Scott 7-4. On the other half of the bracket, top-ranked Johnston was felled by Cedar Rapids Washington 7-5 while West Des Moines Valley tackled Waukee 5-1.

Marshalltown didn’t get a win to show for its efforts, but sometimes the only way to quantify the amount of work you put into something is the way it makes you feel after it’s finished.

The Marshalltown High School baseball team poured its heart and soul into the program’s first state tournament appearance in nine years and has a trophy to show for it — just not the one the Bobcats wanted.

“You can’t go to the bank and withdraw a thousand dollars if you haven’t put anything in it,” Hanson said, “and the same is true here. If you don’t invest something in it, you have no chance at ever reaping any rewards and we reaped some rewards, but we worked real hard to do that.

“Hard work doesn’t guarantee you a thing. We’ve had a lot of guys who have worked really hard who never stepped on this field, never had the chance, but hard work gives you a chance.”

CLASS 4A

Quarterfinals

Wednesday, July 25

West Des Moines Valley 5, Waukee 1

Cedar Rapids Washington 7, Johnston 5

Western Dubuque 7, North Scott 4

Urbandale 8, Marshalltown 3

Semifinals

Friday, July 27

Urbandale (34-6) vs. Western Dubuque (34-9), 5 p.m.

Cedar Rapids Washington (26-17) vs. West Des Moines Valley (28-15), 7:30 p.m.

Championship

Saturday, July 28

Semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m.

——

Urbandale 8, Marshalltown 3

MHS 003 000 0 — 3 7 4

URB 200 015 X — 8 10 0

Nate Vance, Wade Canaday (6) and Kody Ricken; Luke Patzner, Luke Llewellyn (4) and Noah Cook. W–Llewellyn (10-0). L–Vance (9-3). 2B–MHS: Dru Dobbins, Canaday, Luke Appel; URB: Ben DeKruyf. 3B–URB: Casey Steen. HR–URB: Carter Troncin (3). LOB–MHS 7, URB 3.