After a shaky start, Marshall VFW Blue pitcher Drew Hmielewski settled into a groove against Sioux Falls West (S.D.) at Legion Field in Marshall on Friday.
Hmielewski was stung for two runs in the opening inning of the Marshall VFW baseball tournament, but shut down Sioux Falls West over the final six innings in a 5-2 win for Blue.
Sioux Falls West managed seven hits for the game against Hmielewski, but the right-hander stuck out four while picking up the win. It was Hmielewski's first start back after suffering a foot injury.
"He came back off the foot injury, and we made sure we were smart with him and checked it," Marshall Blue head coach Chace Pollock said. "He was good to go and felt good and he wanted the ball. That's what we're looking for. He took it and pitched a very nice ball game."
After spotting Sioux Falls West two runs, Blue scored five unanswered. Conner Winkelman plated the first run for Blue, taking advantage of a throw down to second on a double steal.
Derek Rasmussen's RBI double in the second inning, drove in the eventual deciding run, as Blue scored twice in the inning.
Nate Hoeft knocked in a pair of insurance runs with a hard-hit single in the fourth inning.
Each of Blue's seven hits came off the bat of a different batter as the entire team pitched in to exact a little revenge on Sioux Falls West after a recent sweep in South Dakota.
"We were up 7-1 and 6-0 in both games down in Sioux Falls and they came back and beat us in both of them, so that definitely felt good to come back and win," Pollock said. "But we might see them a fourth time here, so were aren't getting too excited about it."
What the Marshall VFW Blue players, and VFW Orange players for that matter, are excited about is a chance to play in a tournament and sleep in their own beds. Following eight years without a VFW-level tournament in Marshall, the Marshall teams are taking full advantage of playing on their home fields.
"The kids are definitely pumped up about the opportunity, and especially with a quality opponent," Pollock said. "It was good to be able to show our abilities against a really good team. The kids are definitely excited, but they know we're not finished yet. It's just one game of the many we still have to play."
Blue is back in action at Legion Field today for two games. First, Blue takes on Watertown (S.D.) at 10 a.m. before closing out the night against Willmar. Watertown demolished Willmar 22-1 on Friday.
SF West200 000 0-2 7 3
Blue120 200 x-5 7 3
SF-Rhys Minnach; B-Drew Hmielewski. WP-Hmielewski. LP-Minnach. 2B: B-Derek Rasmussen.