Trojans take out Mustangs, 11-1
West eliminates East in district semifinals behind Bannister’s 2-hitter, Jones’ homer
STATE CENTER — Gabe Jones’ leisurely stroll around the bases was a lot like West Marshall’s district baseball victory on Tuesday night — it could have gotten over sooner, but it was going to get there eventually.
Jones hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning to cap the Trojans’ five-run answer to East Marshall’s single tally in the top half, and the West Marshall baseball team ultimately finished off the Mustangs in six innings, 11-1, in Tuesday’s Class 2A District 10 semifinal game at Schelling Field.
West Marshall will meet Pella Christian (16-14) in Saturday’s 7 p.m. district final in State Center after the Eagles dismantled PCM, 8-1, in the first game Tuesday.
The Trojans (27-5) tallied 12 hits in all while taking advantage of an East Marshall pitching staff whose ace was unavailable. The Mustangs (11-18) maxed out Zach Jacobson in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Williamsburg just to get back to Marshall County, using him for 111 pitches in a complete-game performance that required him to stay off the mound the next four days.
Instead the Mustangs turned to sophomore Wesley Hamor, who was chased from the bump by the Trojans’ five-run eruption in the bottom of the first. Eighth-graders Carter Anderson and Kam Monk got East Marshall the rest of the way, but that distance was shortened by an inning by the time West Marshall’s advantage had reached the 10-run plateau.
The two Marshall County schools have met in district play in six of the last nine seasons, each winning three times in alternating fashion.
“We didn’t talk about it at all leading into the game,” West Marshall head coach Jerod Brown said of last year’s 10-1 district loss to Jacobson and the Mustangs. “I think sometimes you spend too much of your energy focusing on things you don’t control, especially the other team. There’s enough familiarity with the programs in terms of scouting.
“We didn’t talk about who we were playing for the last three day. We just want to go out and play our game and figured that was our best opportunity to win.”
East Marshall’s two errors were otherwise inconsequential, but the combined eight walks and hit batsmen issued by Mustang pitching was too much to overcome. Especially the way West Marshall swings the bat.
Trojan sophomores Ryan Reyerson and Bradyen Evertsen each had three hits and two RBIs while Jones, a junior, had a double, a home run and four RBIs in all. West Marshall leads all of 2A with 21 home runs this season.
“We knew we had to play clean against them because they’re good and our margin for error is small,” said East Marshall head coach Justin Frost. “We had a few walks early and that kind of set the tone for the game, but we did work out of some jams and prolonged the game as long as we could. But once again, they’re just really good.”
West Marshall senior right-hander Cameron Bannister (7-0) held the Mustangs to just two hits while walking one and striking out nine in the complete-game victory. Both East Marshall hits were doubles, including senior Kam Hoskins’ shot to the gap in left that followed the Trojans’ two-out error in the top of the first. Jacobson had reached safely when West Marshall shortstop Kinnick Christensen’s throw to Reyerson at first base went to the fence after Reyerson lost the throw in the setting sun.
“I knew the whole lineup was going to be a tough battle because it’s postseason time and everyone’s at their best,” Bannister said, “especially their top four guys.”
Dane Thompson added a two-out double down the left-field line in the top of the fourth, but he was the last Mustang runner to advance as far as second base.
“We knew [Bannister] had a decent fastball and a pretty decent breaking ball as well and he showed it all,” said Frost. “Cam was good tonight. He kept us off-balance and we hit a few hard balls but for the most part he was in control of the ballgame.”
East Marshall’s opportunity to seize control was fleeting, especially after Hamor walked Jake Tollefson and hit Bannister to start the bottom of the first. One out later, Hamor hit Kaden Davis with an 0-2 fastball at his feet, and Reyerson lifted a run-scoring sacrifice fly to left field to even the score at 1-all.
Back at square one, West Marshall went back to work. Evertsen ripped a single to center, scoring Bannister, and Jones followed with a no-doubter to right-center field. His three-run shot and subsequent trot around the bases spelled a slow and painful end for East Marshall.
“I think that was probably the biggest point of the game,” said Brown. “You get behind, if you get shut out that next inning they get a lot of momentum. So for us, the first couple guys got on, Reyerson’s sacrifice fly just to tie the game was pretty big momentum-wise, and then Evertsen got a two-out hit, Jonesy tanked one and I think that gave us a lot of momentum moving forward that we just kind of ran with.”
“It definitely takes the weight off your shoulders,” he said, “especially when they go up 1-0 in the top of the first and you come out and put five up, that makes it a lot easier.
“I’m pretty sure every guy had some hitters and a lot of adrenaline pumping, I know I sure did. I had a couple knots in my stomach.”
The Trojans tacked on three runs in the second inning against Anderson, who like Hamor walked the first two batters of the inning. Davis skied a double down the left-field line to drive in Tollefson and Reyerson blooped a single to score Bannister’s courtesy runner Ben Kielman from third. Evertsen’s sacrifice fly drove in Davis to make it 8-0.
West Marshall had the opportunity to end the game earlier by loading the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth, but Monk got out of the jam he inherited from Anderson by snaring a line drive back to the mound, getting a strikeout and one more comebacker on the mound.
“For a tough situation, it’s only going to help them get better in the long run so it’s good experience for them,” Frost said of Anderson and Monk. “We’ll see if it benefits them later on in their careers.”
The Trojans finally finished off the Mustangs in the bottom of the seventh with four-straight hits. Reyerson doubled, Evertsen singled, Jones doubled and Markle’s ground-rule double to center ended the game.
For each of the last three years, the Marshall County rivals have eliminated each other from district play. West Marshall had to like its chances in this round with the Mustangs missing Jacobson from the mound. East Marshall went 9-1 in the 10 games Jacobson started pitching this season, and 2-17 when he didn’t.
“Zach Jacobson is a very good pitcher, they’ve had a great record when he has pitched this year,” said Brown. “We’ve seen him firsthand. He shut us down last year in the district game, but that’s a good program with a lot of pride so you knew they were going to come out and compete, and some of their younger guys did a pretty nice job tonight in the roles they filled.”
Hamor surrendered five runs in two-thirds of an inning, walking three, while Anderson allowed three runs on five hits over 2 1/3 innings, walking five while striking out one. Monk gave up four runs — three earned — on five hits over two innings, striking out two.
West Marshall 11, East Marshall 1, 6 innings
At State Center
EM 100 000 — 1 2 1
WM 530 003 — 11 12 2
Wesley Hamor, Carter Anderson (1), Kam Monk (4) and Kam Hoskins, Hamor (1); Cameron Bannister and Josh Larsen. W–Bannister (7-0). L–Hamor (1-7). 2B–EM: Hoskins, Dane Thompson; WM: Kaden Davis, Gabe Jones, Nat Markle. HR–WM: Jones (4). LOB–EM 4, WM 9.