CLASS 2AAA BASEBALL: Marshall tops Hutch to win Section 2AAA
NEW ULM –The Marshall baseball team’s journey through the Section 2AAA Tournament was not for the faint of heart. The Tigers were forced to stave off elimination four straight times against some of the state’s top teams before reaching Friday’s title game against Hutchinson.
With a trip to the state tournament hanging in the balance, the gritty Marshall ballclub stayed true to their winning formula of clutch hitting and sound defense to beat Hutch 9-2, and punch their ticket to state for the third time in five years.
Marshall coach Chace Pollock believes that the team’s path to the section title speaks to the character and work ethic of this group.
“Most teams that were in our situation get eliminated,” said Pollock. “They’re in the (consolation) bracket and it just doesn’t work out. They don’t believe or it just doesn’t go their way. Not this group. This group showed what their character and their work ethic is all about. I’m very proud of this team.”
The character and work ethic described by Pollock has also translated into an unbreakable bond amongst the players. Senior Nick Macchio called the team a family, and said they’re all quick to build each other up, no matter the situation.
“We have a common theme and it’s family,” said Macchio. “We stick together through the ups and downs. If somebody struggles we always pick him up and if someone does really good we tell them that they did really good. It’s all part of the family and the coaches also help bring us together. It’s a group of people that I’ll never forget.”
After falling just short of a section title in 2018, Macchio had been visualizing this moment all year long. Now that it’s here, he couldn’t be more excited.
“Saying it’s great is an understatement,” said Macchio. “It’s truly amazing to make it this far and battle up through the (consolation) bracket as the No. 4 seed in the section. I remember last year after we lost to Mankato West in our last game. I’ve been thinking of this moment for the whole year now so it feels great.”
The two starting pitchers in Friday’s contest were the story of the opening two innings as Marshall’s Kaleb Welvaert and Hutchinson’s Dan VanDeSteeg traded scoreless frames before both offenses found their rhythm their third time up.
The Tigers struck first in the top half of the inning as Matt Hmielewski picked up his first of three singles on the day before being waved home on a Cody Greve double. The lead was shortlived, however, as Hutch put together a two-out rally in the latter half of the inning beginning with a single and ending with consecutive extra-base hits to take a 2-1 lead.
Marshall’s most productive inning at the plate came in the fourth inning as the team went on to produce four runs on five hits, beginning with a leadoff single from Macchio. Jordan Mernaugh knotted the game up at two apiece with a single and Hmielewski followed suit to load the bases for Jackson Hughes. After dropping a sacrifice bunt his previous time up, Hughes delivered a two-RBI single to make it 4-2. A wild pitch two batters later scored their fifth run.
In the bottom of the fourth, Welvaert was forced to dig deep with Hutch threatening to score once more with back to back base hits to open the frame. Unfazed, Welvaert dug in and picked off a Hutchinson baserunner for the first out and retired the next two with strikeouts to end the inning.
Pollock praised Welvaert for his composure on the mound and couldn’t be more proud of his overall performance.
“He’s the perfect guy you want in there at the end of the game. He’s a guy that’s going to throw strikes,” said Pollock. “He’s going to make them put the ball in play and I couldn’t be more proud of his performance.”
Off the mound and in the batter’s box, Welvaert added two more runs in the top of the sixth inning via an extra-base hit to extend the Tigers lead to 8-2. Mernaugh had scored the team’s sixth run in the previous inning with a sacrifice fly.
With a sizable lead in hand, Marshall added their ninth run in the top of the seventh inning on a wild pitch to score Mernaugh after having reached first with a walk before advancing to third on a base hit by Hmielewski and a sac-bunt by Hughes.
With the victory, the Tigers now await their state tournament matchup with the bracket set to be released on Monday.
Looking ahead, Pollock simply wants his team to continue what they’ve been doing throughout their section run.
“We just have to continue doing what we’re doing, whoever it is that we play,” said Pollock. “We’re excited to get there and we’ll keep working.”
Marshall 9, Hutchinson 2
Marshall 001 412 1 — 9 13 1
Hutchinson 002 000 0 — 2 8 2
HITTING: Marshall (Thompson 1-3, R; Greve 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Macchio 2-4; Welvaert 2-3, 2B, RBI; Mulso 2-4, R; Mernaugh 1-2, 2 RBI, R; Hmielewski 3-4, 3R; Hughes 1-2, 2 RBI)
PITCHING (IP-R-ER-H-BB-SO): Marshall (Welvaert 7-2-2-8-3-4)