Reaching the final stretch of the regular season, Marshalltown baseball coach Steve Hanson believes it's as good a time as any to face off against the state's best and see where his squad stands.
With Class 4A No. 1 ranked Ankeny in town Friday, the Bobcats had that opportunity in hand.
Though with spotty pitching handicapping its chances from the get-go, Marshalltown's litmus test ended soon after it started as MHS gave up seven free bases in the first inning and fell behind 12-0 en route to a 16-1, four-inning defeat against the Hawks.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown’s Blake Judkins slides in past Ankeny pitcher Nick Belzer for the Bobcats’ lone run in a 16-1 four-inning defeat to the Class 4A No. 1 ranked Hawks Friday at the MHS diamond. Ankeny used seven free bases and a pair of grand slams to claim a 12-0 advantage in the first frame.
Marshalltown (14-16) issued three walks, hit three batters and went through three pitchers in the opening frame, while also committing an error. Ankeny (22-5) sent 15 batters to the plate with 10 of its first 11 reaching base.
"We're lucky they only scored 12," said Hanson of the first-inning fiasco.
Brent Jones got things started for the Class 4A defending state champions with a two-run double before Tanner Clayberg added a grand slam and Dan Lenzini scored on a bases-loaded hit by pitch.
Collin Shultice came across on another beaned batter with the bases full, before Matt Johnson cleared them with a shot over the centerfield wall as Ankeny put up a dozen runs on just five hits.
"If we're going to measure ourselves against the best teams - and certainly Ankeny is among the top two or three we'll ever see in the state tournament - we may as well get them now and see where we're at," said Hanson with district play approaching.
"Two weeks from tonight it all counts. There are no do-overs."
Fortunately for the Bobcats, they have several more chances to fine-tune their play - and the first area to address is getting ahead of hitters. Using five different arms from the mound, MHS threw just 61 strikes out of 117 pitches, including only 18 first-pitch strikes.
Blake Judkins got the Bobcats on the board in the next frame racing home from second on a dropped third strike wild pitch after opening the at-bat with a double.
"That might have been the only bright spot in that (Blake) was alert enough to make the attempt and he hustled enough from second to third to have a chance to make the attempt," Hanson said.
"We had some other fellas on the bases tonight who weren't that aggressive. For us it doesn't matter if it's 16-1, 1-1 or 316-1, you still play the same way and Judkins did a good job of that tonight."
Ankeny added to its advantage with Michael Allenback scoring on a wild pitch, Zach Morrissey tallying an RBI single and Toby Wall scoring on an error in the third. Quincy Griffith's run-scoring double brought in Andy Anderson in the fourth and provided the 15-run rule differential.
The Hawks outhit the home team 12-3 and took advantage of two MHS errors. Clayberg hit 2-for-2 with a run and 4 RBIs, while Johnson hit 1-for-2 with a run and 4 RBIs. The duo hit their third and sixth homers respectively of the season, while Brent Jones went 2-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs. Nine different players recorded a hit for the Hawks who entered with the third most homers in 4A (18) and the fifth-best slugging percentage (.462).
Nick Belzer allowed one run on three hits and no walks, while fanning three batters in three frames for the win. Brent Jones retired all three batters he faced in the fourth.
Starter Austin Sowers was chased after allowing six runs on two walks and three hits in 1/3 of an inning. Derek Mann faced four batters, but didn't record an out surrendering four unearned runs on one hit and a walk. Tyler Moranville, who finished off the first inning, threw 1 2/3 frames giving up a pair of unearned runs on two hits and a strikeout. Connor Ruddick and Dylan Diveney threw the final two frames. Ruddick allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk while fanning two. Diveney retired one batter on strikes and gave up a run on two hits.
Diveney and Grant Thimesch had the team's only other hits, while Mason McCarville was credited with an RBI.
The Bobcats face Mason City on the road Monday in a Central Iowa Conference Northern Division doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. Marshalltown split with the Mohawks on June 17.
The Hawks had won three straight and 9 of their last 11 entering Friday MHS hosts Waukee in a doubleheader Wednesday before entertaining Class 4A No. 5 Des Moines East Friday. ... Hanson said if the Bobcats put themselves in position to win or tie for the CIC Northern Division title, they will try to work out a rescheduled date for their previously postponed doubleheader with Fort Dodge.