Hits were few and far between as Marshall VFW Blue split a pair of games on the opening day of the Minnesota VFW state baseball tournament in Mankato.
Marshall won its first game of the day, 2-0, over Bemidji, but fell to Rochester, 3-1, in their second game on Thursday.
Blue tallied just seven hits over the two games, with five coming against Bemidji, and managed to hold their opponents to four total hits on the day. Two of Marshall's hits resonated louder during Game 1.
Nolan Schaeffer's triple in the first inning drove in Drew Hmielewski and got Marshall Blue on the scoreboard. Hmielewski initially reached base after a walk and stole second before scoring on Schaeffer's three-bagger.
Carl Douglas drove in Marshall's second run of the game in the seventh inning when Noah Winkelman scored on Douglas' double. Winkelman, like Hmielewski before him, had also reached base initially via a walk.
The two runs for Marshall were only sufficient due to the performance by starting pitcher Riley Sharbono. He picked up the win for Marshall, pitching all seven innings and allowing just two hits with five strikeouts. His performance on the mound powered Marshall Blue to its first state tournament win in five years.
"You have to tip your hat to (Sharbono) for pitching the way he did," said Blue coach Matt Suby. "We really rode the momentum of good pitching and defense in the first game."
Despite plating just two runs in the game, Suby was impressed by his team's level of preparedness heading into the opening game of the tournament.
"We had two runs, but we got up early and they did a great job of what we asked of them and being prepared," Suby said. "We're really happy with the effort over all. It's always good to get off to a win right away."
Marshall was on the receiving end of a dominant pitching performance in their second game on Thursday as Rochester's starter held Marshall to one unearned run on just two hits.
"He was a lefty that threw it pretty good," Suby said. "He really had command of his slider. One of the things he was able to do was keep the ball down.
"A lot of guys this age they're off speed they just try to throw for a strike. He was able to use it for that, but also to get guys out."
Marshall Blue's lone run came in the top of the first when Bryce Johnson scored on an error of a Schaeffer fly ball. Winkelman and Conner Mesman had Marshall's hits, both singles.
Carl Douglas got the start for Marshall, but could not duplicate Sharbono's performance entirely. Douglas did hold the opponent to just two hits, but gave up three runs over five innings with three walks. That trio of Rochester runs came in a tough third inning for Marshall, sapping its momentum.
"We had a bad inning in the third inning and we let ourselves get down," Suby said. "We were riding pretty high at that point. We just weren't able to recover after that point."
Mesman will get the start on Friday for Marshall, which is still alive in the double-elimination tournament.
"The best news we have after that second game is we still get to play another game tomorrow," Suby said. "Being in the state tournament is great, and now we've got nothing to lose."
Marshall will face the winner of Ely/Mankato at 11 a.m. today at Mankato East High School.
Marshall100 000 1-2 5 0
Bemidji000 000 0-0 2 0
M-Riley Sharbono; B-Rutledge. WP-Sharbono. LP-Rutledge. 3B: M-Nolan Schaeffer. 2B: M-Carl Douglas.
Marshall100 000 0-1 2 1
Rochester003 000 0-3 2 1
M-Carl Douglas, Adam Kovash (6); R-Douglas. WP-Douglas. LP- C. Douglas.