LEGION BASEBALL: Marshall splits pair of games to stay alive at sub-state tournament
WACONIA – Fresh off of a 6-4 victory over Waconia in the Sub State 15 playoff opener, the Marshall Mudcats returned to Lions Field on Thursday where they took their first loss in the double-elimination tournament via a 2-1 heartbreaker at the hands of No. 1 seed Buffalo.
With no room left for error, the Mudcats responded hours later with a 4-2 win over Cold Spring to keep their season alive.
Looking ahead, Marshall coach Mitch Maxwell says the team will need to dig deep in order to make it through the loser’s bracket and win the tournament.
“At this point it’s kind of a gut-check because there’s quite a few games that have to be played to be able to come out of the loser’s bracket and you’re going to be dealing with a challenge when it comes to pitching,” said Maxwell. “(We need to) have guys ready to play when they get to the ballpark.”
The Mudcats were presented with multiple scoring opportunities in their quarterfinal matchup with Buffalo beginning with a bases-loaded situation in the top of the second inning that was squandered. The three base runners left stranded were the first of seven for the game.
With the club struggling to produce offensively, Kaleb Welvaert, provided a spark for the Mudcats on the mound with a complete-game outing featuring three strikeouts, while giving up a pair of earned runs on four hits. Maxwell lauded Welvaert for establishing the fastball early and praised Nick Macchio for his work behind the plate calling pitches.
“He did a good job of establishing the fastball the first time through the lineup and then the second time through the lineup he kept them off-balance,” said Maxwell. “Nick Macchio did a nice job calling pitches today (as well).”
Welvaert went on to hold Buffalo scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning when a suicide-squeeze play got them on the board. A double and a single to follow drove in Buffalo’s second and final run.
Maxwell acknowledged that there was simply nothing that Welvaert or Macchio could have done differently on the squeeze play.
“On that squeeze Kaleb threw it where you want to throw it on a squeeze and the kid stuck his bat up in the air and managed to put a ball down the line,” said Maxwell. “I don’t know how often that you see that where a kid sticks his bat out like that and lays a bunt perfectly down the third baseline. So give their guy credit, but we gave ourselves a chance even at the end there to be able to tie it up and play some more baseball.
Marshall would get one back in the top of the seventh inning when Braden Hilgemann led off with a single before being advanced into scoring position by Cody Greve on a sacrifice bunt, and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Riley Alcorn. Jackson Hughes, who had reached base on a walk earlier in the inning, was left stranded at third as a groundout ended the threat and the game.
In stark contrast to their previous two games of the tournament in which the Mudcats scored all of their runs in the last two innings, Marshall was able to strike early against Cold Spring and kept their foot on the gas the rest of the way through to victory.
After the disappointing loss in their previous contest, Maxwell implored his senior leaders to help set the tempo to begin the second game.
“We talked before the game about how challenging it is in a tournament like this to come back after a tough loss like that. We lose 2-1 and it’s easy to just kind of hang your head and not have energy for that next game,” said Maxwell. “Credit to our seniors for providing leadership on that. That was a challenge that they were issued before this one was to make sure that we’re ready to play and I thought that we did that. Those runs proved that they took charge of that and good news is we get to play another ballgame tomorrow.”
Through three complete innings, the Mudcats found themselves with a 3-0 lead thanks to a bevy of clutch hits. Senior Macchio was the first to deliver offensively with a two-out RBI single to score Alcorn in the bottom of the first inning.
In the top of the second, Greve continued the trend of timely hits with a two-out RBI single to left field to score Hilgemann and give Marshall a 2-0 lead. In the following inning, Peyton Grant pushed the lead to three runs with another two-out base hit to score Macchio.
On the hill for the Mudcats was Logan Terfehr, who ensured that the lead was in safe-keeping with an efficient outing complete with six shutout innings before giving up a pair of runs in the top of the seventh. Maxwell came away especially impressed with his command of the strike zone.
“He was very efficient. Going into the seventh he had thrown only 60 pitches. He did a nice job just establishing the strike zone and having good command and challenging their hitters to put the ball in play and then we played defense behind him,” said Maxwell. “If you look at both games we played well defensively, and we pitched well.”
The Mudcats fourth and final run came in the bottom of the fifth when Hilgemann drove in Welvaert with a sacrifice bunt. Cold Spring would cut the deficit in half in their final time up but fell short in the midst of a rally to end the game at 4-2.
Marshall will return to the field today to take on Willmar at 4 p.m. in Waconia.
Buffalo 2, Marshall 1
Marshall 000 000 1 -1 4 1
Buffalo 000 002 x – 2 4 0
HITTING: Marshall (Alcorn 1-3, RBI; Schmitt 1-4, 2B; Welvaert 1-3; Hilgemann 1-3, R).
PITCHING (IP-R-ER-H-BB-SO): Marshall (Welvaert 6-2-2-4-1-3).
Marshall 4, Cold Spring 2
Cold Spring 000 000 2 – 2 9 1
Marshall 111 010 x – 4 8 0
HITTING: Marshall (Greve 1-4, RBI; Alcorn 1-4, 2B, R; Schmitt 1-3; Macchio 1-3, R, RBI; Welvaert 1-2, R; Mernaugh 1-2; Grant 1-3; Hughes 1-2).
PITCHING: Marshall (Terfehr 7-2-2-9-1-6).