Tigers toppled twice in home opener

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown Community College designated hitter Luke Woodward (1) is congratulated by teammate Christopher Lopez (13) after hitting a home run in game one of the Tigers’ home-opening doubleheader on Wednesday against Kirkwood. The Eagles won both games, taking the first 5-3 and the second 10-1.

Baseball returned to Marshalltown for the first time in 2018 on Wednesday when the Marshalltown Community College baseball team hosted NJCAA Division II No. 12 Kirkwood Community College for a home-opening doubleheader.

In game one at Shawn Williams field on the MCC campus, the Tigers erased an early 2-0 deficit and were tied 3-3 heading into the seventh inning, but the Eagles were able to plate two in the top of the seventh and Marshalltown couldn’t answer in the bottom, leading to a 5-3 Kirkwood victory.

Game two had a similar feel, as the Eagles started off the first inning by platting a run but the Tigers answered back in the bottom of the first, but Kirkwood would score the next nine runs in the contest to complete the sweep of MCC with a 10-1 victory.

The biggest difference in the two games for the Tigers (2-12) was their ability to minimize mistakes, as they committed no errors in game one but hurt themselves with three errors in game two, errors that generally led to Kirkwood (16-3) runs.

MCC head coach Kim Johnson, who coached his first home games for the program since being hired last fall, said the defense making that many errors in game two was far from the norm.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown Community College catcher Joel Torrealba, left, safely slides into third base as Kirkwood’s Izaya Fullard loses the ball during the first game of the doubleheader between the Tigers and Eagles on Wednesday.

“Something up to this point that has been very consistent, up until our second game, has been our defense,” he said. “That was a strength in the fall and it has to be a strength now because we just don’t have the power arms to come in and dominate so we have to play good defense.”

Game one actually saw a good performance on the mound by freshman Walter Hernandez, as he went six full innings giving up three earned runs and striking out three. Johnson said it wasn’t pitching that was the downfall in the first game, but timely hitting.

“The first game was an error-free game and Walter pitched a very good game, we left some runs out there but they threw a very, very good arm at us and we did OK on him,” Johnson said. “We had a lead for a while, we had other opportunities to score but we just didn’t get it done at the end and that’s just kind of been our story this year in a lot of games. We will have leads in the middle to late in the game and we don’t finish.”

Designated hitter Luke Woodward had one of the better performances of the day in game one, hitting his second home run of the season in the second inning to put the Tigers on the board.

“Luke is a hitter, he can definitely hit. He shows a lot of maturity at the plate and he shows a lot of discipline at the plate and hunts his pitch,” Johnson said. “That’s one thing we have to get other guys to learn as well.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown Community College pitcher Walter Hernandez delivers a strike during the first game of the Tigers’ home-opening doubleheader against Kirkwood on Wednesday.

MCC went 5-for-26 in game one with four walks and five strikeouts while leaving six on base. In game two the bats quieted down, as the Tigers only managed a 3-for-19 line with five strikeouts again and four runners left on base. Kirkwood went 10-for-31 in the second game two-runner homer from Kal Youngquist and a double from Chili Moseley that also plated two runs.

“In the second game we made some mistakes defensively and their pitching was better than our hitters,” Johnson said. “There’s a reason that they are ranked in the top 12 in the country. They find ways to win and we have to learn how to win with 23 freshmen on our roster. That’s the biggest difference.”

Probably the best performance in the game came from the final pitcher to enter, as Garrett Greiner took over with one batter on and no outs in the bottom of the sixth and finished the final two innings with four strikeouts while only surrendering one unearned run.

“Garrett hasn’t had a great opportunity to get out there yet but he earned another outing somewhere along the line here fairly soon,” Johnson said. “A weakness of ours has been our bullpen, we are young there and we are not dominant there, so we’ve got to be a little better with throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters and being smart. The ability is there, without a doubt.”

Not only was this the first time the Tigers had taken the field at home this season, it was really the first time MCC had even stepped foot on Shawn Williams Field for any kind of action at all. Due to the weather this winter, Johnson said his guys have been forced to practice inside, which doesn’t allow he and the coaching staff to really work on some of the finer parts of the game.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“Not to make excuses because everyone in the north is in the same boat, but the only time that we have been on a field has been when we’ve played a game,” he said. “We have had zero chance to practice and work on a lot of little things and so we are a work in progress. We have to weather this storm and just keep learning and keep playing hard because those are things we can control.”

MCC will look to continue improving next time out when it hosts Ellsworth for a single game on Tuesday, starting at 2 p.m.