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Marshall youth baseball programs get season underway

15U Orange tops 17U Black in opener

Photo by Sam Thiel Marshall 15U’s Jon Gruhot races around third on his way to home during their game against Marshall 17U Black on Monday.

MARSHALL — After a couple of months of waiting in the dugout, it was finally the younger players’ turn to take the field.

Monday night marked the season opener for both the Marshall 17U Black and 15U Orange baseball teams, and 17U manager Mitch Maxwell was excited to get back on the diamond and talked about the importance of getting kids back into a familiar routine after COVID-19 wiped out their spring and early summer seasons.

“We’ve talked as coaches about how important it is for kids to be able to be involved in activities and get them back into a routine and I think that’s what has happened a lot over the last couple of weeks,” Maxwell said. “Guys are chomping at the bit a little bit and wanting to play some baseball and it has felt good to be able to practice; I think that’s the most important thing, getting those kids in a routine, being back in activities and playing a little baseball with their buddies.”

Both ballclubs brought the energy, but a strong first inning by Marshall 15U provided themselves with just enough of a cushion before they held off a late rally from 17U to earn a 6-5 victory at Legion Field.

Marshall 15U manager Thomas Fischer said as expected, there are some things they need to work on as a group, but was overall pleased with their performance on both sides of the field.

“There’s a lot of things to work on still, it’s the first game of the year and that’s going to be expected but we hit the ball really well and we made the plays we were supposed to make to win the game,” Fischer said.

Marshall 17U got out to a quick start, as Connor Neubeck connected on a two-out single before Brock Schultz and Zach Allen drew walks to load the bases. Mitchell Bouwman then drew a walk of his own to bring in the game’s first run.

Marshall 15U answered right back, though, with Zach Leibfried smacking a leadoff double before coming around to score on an RBI groundout from Tyler Maeyaert. After an error and a walk, Joey Fossum connected on an RBI single before Jon Gruhot reached on an error and scored two in the process, giving Marshall Orange a 4-1 lead after one.

Neither side found scoring in the next frame, but Marshall 15U would add to its lead in the bottom half of the third when Gruhot got aboard on a single before coming around to score on Ezra Maurice’s RBI double to make it 5-1.

In need of a spark, Marshall 17U capitalized in the ensuing at-bat, as Kaden Brinkman drew a leadoff walk and Owen Knochenmus got a single before Seth Radtke reached on an infield single to bring in a run. After Keaton Maertens cut the deficit to 5-3 with an RBI single, Neubeck reached on an error a couple of batters later to make it a one-run game.

Once again, Marshall 15U had a response, using a pair of singles before Andrew Wallen pushed its lead to 6-4 with an RBI single. That advantage quickly diminished in the next trip to the plate for Marshall 17U, as it loaded the bases before Jake Eben brought in a run with an RBI groundout to make it 6-5 after five.

After a scoreless sixth, Marshall 17U had one final chance to extend the game, but the 15U relief pitcher Maeyaert quickly sent Marshall 17U down in order to seal the one-run victory.

Despite the final result, Maxwell credited the 15U club for applying pressure on their team right from the start, but felt his group did a good job of showing their resiliency as the night went on.

“First of all, hats off to their club, they did a nice job of hitting the ball and putting pressure on us defensively. We needed to be able to locate an off-speed pitch early and we weren’t able to do that and I think that hurt us a little bit, but it wasn’t the only thing. I talked with the guys after the game, the biggest thing is the things we didn’t do well, we’ll be able to improve on and I think what we saw is some signs of a good club,” Maxwell said. “We didn’t hang our heads, we came back and played good baseball, battled back to within a run twice and at the end of the game we were right there within a run. I think there’s a little bit of resiliency there and I think what you saw is what you would expect out of a first game for both teams. We’ve only had a handful of practices, but I was proud of our guys for battling up there and I think they’re a group that’s going to improve as the summer goes along.”

Neubeck led the way for Marshall 17U with a pair of hits and an RBI while Radtke and Maertens each had a hit and an RBI and Knochenmus, Preston Hoflock and Schultz also collected a hit.

Allen took the loss on the mound, going one inning while allowing four runs on four hits and striking out one. Bouwman tossed three innings while giving up two runs on seven hits and striking out three, and Schultz came in for the final two frames, allowing no runs while striking out six.

Leibfried led the way for Marshall 15U with a couple of hits while Maeyaert had two hits and an RBI and Gruhot recorded a hit and two RBI. Wallen, Fossum and Maurice each added a hit and an RBI while Gavin Peterson, Ashton Rowe and Lincoln Graven had a hit each as well.

Fischer said their key on offense was their ability to attack pitches quickly and utilize their baserunners well.

“Our guys just started jumping on the strikes right away,” Fischer said. “We weren’t really taking any pitches, just putting the ball in play and then we were able to score some runs.”

Wallen earned the victory on the mound, going three innings while allowing one run on two hits and striking out two. Rowe tossed 1 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out one, while Maeyaert finished the game, allowing no runs while striking out four.

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