Trojans’ hit parade persists
West Marshall wallops Baxter in first-round game of Rose Festival Tournament
STATE CENTER — In previous years, the Rose Festival parade meandered along Main Street past Schelling Field prior to the start of the West Marshall baseball team’s annual tournament, giving fans the opportunity to catch some candy before games began.
On Saturday, as the parade passed the ballpark with action already underway due to the earlier star time, the Trojans treated fans to their own kind of cavalcade — a hit parade.
West Marshall broke loose from Baxter with seven runs in the bottom of the third inning as the Rose Festival parade coasted by, and the Trojans continued their offensive tear with a 13-0, five-inning beatdown of the Bolts in the opening round of the annual four-team tournament.
West Marshall (13-3) never got the opportunity to meet PCM in the championship game for the fifth consecutive time as rain washed away the consolation battle between Grundy Center and Baxter. PCM (9-2) defeated Grundy Center (7-6) in the second game of the day, 10-3, before the Spartans and the Bolts (5-10) were called off the field locked in a 2-2 tie.
“You only get to play so many games, you only get so many opportunities, and earlier this year we lost a Memorial Day Tournament, we’ve lost two non-conference games, so losing another one it’s just another opportunity to get better,” said West Marshall head coach Jerod Brown. “The kids really like playing the game, they like playing with each other, so anytime you get an opportunity to play you’d like to do that.
“It’s disappointing but looking at the weather in other places, maybe we were pretty fortunate to get one game in today. It’s nice that we get a little bigger crowd and it’s got a different feel to it with the Rose Festival, but it is what it is.”
Still, the Trojans were happy to collect a weekend win driven again by an on-track offense and a one-hit shutout from senior left-hander Nat Markle.
Markle (4-0) struck out five, walked none and faced only three batters more than the minimum. He needed just 63 pitches to get through his second complete game of the week after going all six innings in a 14-4 victory at BCLUW on Monday night in Beaman.
“We kind of mapped the week ahead of time, and Nat’s a guy who doesn’t really get sore after he pitches,” said West Marshall head coach Jerod Brown, “so having seven games scheduled in the week it was big that we got Nat out of there on Monday, he recovered and was able to go out there and throw a lot of strikes
“The times we’ve given up a decent amount of runs, a lot of it has been self-inflicted wounds. It hasn’t been getting hit really hard, it’s that we’ve put a lot of guys on base and then somebody gets a hit. Nat didn’t walk anybody today, put the ball in play a lot and didn’t have a ton of strikeouts but our defense backed him up. For us, especially at the end of the week, anytime you can do that it’s really big for us and Nat’s consistently done that for us this year.”
Ian Thomson’s second-inning single was the only hit in the game for Baxter. Thomson also reached on a dropped third strike to lead off the fifth, and by stealing second base became the only Bolt batter to get halfway around the diamond.
More than half of the Trojans’ nine hits got them halfway home off the bat, as West Marshall rapped out five doubles in the run rule-shortened win. Jake Tollefson led off the bottom of the first with one of his two doubles on the day, setting the stage for the Trojans’ own hit parade.
After starting the season 3-2, West Marshall has averaged 13.1 runs per game while winning 10 of its last 11 games, collecting all of its Class 2A-leading 11 home runs in that span. Overall, the Trojans rank second in 2A in total runs (176) and runs per game (11), third in slugging percentage (.517), and sixth in batting average (.351) and on-base percentage (.481).
The phrase “track power” has taken on a whole new meaning for a ballclub with the Union Pacific Railroad running adjacent to its outfield fence. With their recent offensive barrage, the Trojans rank fifth across all classes with 11 home runs — more than 332 of the other 338 teams in the state.
“It’s a credit to a lot of the work we did in the offseason,” said Brown. “We’ve lifted really heavy in-season even now with our strength and conditioning coach Stephen Adams, there’s a lot of factors that go into it and we’re pleased with where we’ve been offensively the last two weeks.”
West Marshall has hit .413 as a team starting with the win over Carlisle, and Saturday’s triumph over Baxter seemed to fall right in line. It all started with Tollefson’s two-bagger and barely braked before the game reached its end.
Following Tollefson’s leadoff double, Cameron Bannister reached on an error and both baserunners scored on Ryan Reyerson’s one-out double to left-center field. Kaden Davis followed with a single, but two runners were left stranded as the Trojans took a 2-0 lead.
West Marshall got back on the attack in the third as Bannister led off with a double, stole third and scored two outs later on a Davis single back up the middle. Gabe Jones reached on an error, Brayden Evertsen walked to load the bases and Ben Kielman slashed a two-run single to center. After Josh Larsen was hit by a pitch, Tollefson plated both baserunners with his second double of the game to chase Baxter starter Brad Matthews from the mound.
Reliever Patrick Kennedy walked Bannister and Kinnick Christensen but got out of the bases-loaded jam, but not before West Marshall had scored seven times — all with two outs.
The Trojans reached the 10-run threshold in the bottom of the fourth as Davis reached on an error, Jones walked and Kielman singled home a run one out later to make it 10-0. Larsen walked, Tollefson was plunked to force in a run, and pinch-hitter Peyton Hart hammered an RBI single to left. Pinch-hitter Tyler Wilson took a bases-loaded walk to bring the score to its eventual 13-0 final.
Tollefson finished 2-for-3 with two doubles, two runs scored and three RBIs, and Kielman was 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs, and his courtesy runners scored twice. Davis went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI.
“The first two weeks of the season we really struggled at the plate,” said Brown. “We felt going into the season that we would be pretty good offensively so we preached to the guys to stay patient, that it would eventually come around and the last two weeks we’ve taken off.
“We had a really nice effort against a very quality Carlisle team and it carried over, and we’ve been getting contributions top-to-bottom. It’s really been an entire team effort. We’ve had some guys come off the bench in those games and get some key pinch-hits.”
West Marshall’s schedule backs off a bit with only four games slated for the coming week starting with Monday’s home game against Grundy Center in an NICL West Division clash. The Trojans meet future Heart of Iowa Athletic Conference foes Nevada on Tuesday and Saydel on Thursday before hosting South Hardin on Friday in league play.
West Marshall 13, Baxter 0
At State Center
BAXTER 000 00 — 0 1 3
W. MARSHALL 207 4X — 13 9 2
Brad Matthews, Patrick Kennedy (3), Jake Travis (4) and Grant Borts; Nat Markle and Ben Kielman. W–Markle. L–Matthews. 2B–WM: Jake Tollefson 2, Cameron Bannister, Ryan Reyerson, Kielman. LOB–BAX 3, WM 7.