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‘If you play like that, you don’t deserve to win’

Hitting struggles plague Marshall in losses to Willmar

Photo by Jake McNeill: Marshall shortstop Andrew Stelter rounds third base to head home for a run during a baseball game against Willmar on Monday. The Cardinals swept the Tigers with final scores of 3-1 and 5-4.

MARSHALL — The Marshall baseball team played Willmar in a pair of tight battles on Monday afternoon. While the Tigers were within striking distance throughout both games of the doubleheader, a lack of consistent hitting left Marshall short with a 3-1 and a 5-4 loss.

“Obviously we didn’t hit the ball very well today. If we swing it a little bit better, I think it’s a different ballgame,” Marshall head coach Chace Pollock said. “We made too many mistakes defensively too. It wasn’t pretty. If you play like that, you don’t deserve to win.”

Marshall finished the day with three hits in the first game and two in the second game, getting hit 8-5 overall by the Cardinals on the day. Pollock said he felt his group let some hittable pitches go by them and didn’t take advantage when they got the pitches they were looking for.

Willmar surged ahead of the Tigers in the fourth inning of game 1 when Reese Christianson and Cullen Gregory were walked and hit by a pitch. Marshall catcher Talan Plante fielded a popped-up bunt to put one out against Willmar but Braeden Fagerlie drilled a three-run home run over the left-field wall to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. 

Jordan Ellingson was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a passed ball and a Blake Reiman single put runners on the corners with no outs. Yet, Marshall starting pitcher Chase Alcorn got a strikeout and a pop out to Plante to limit the damage to three runs in the inning.

Alcorn pitched the first 6 …” innings for the Tigers, the only runs he allowed all day coming on the three-run homer. He held the Cardinals to three hits and three walks while striking out eight batters. Karson Rowe pitched the final out for the Tigers after Alcorn hit the pitch maximum with two outs in the final frame. 

The Tigers opened the game’s scoring in the bottom of the second. Andrew Stelter drew a walk and scored all the way from first when Liam Kruse sent a hard-hit double to center field.

Dylan Staska took the hill for Willmar in game 1 and went the distance, limiting Marshall to one earned run. He struck out five Tiger batters while allowing three hits and three walks.

Kruse led Marshall’s offense with two hits and a walk on the day. The only other Tiger to reach base multiple times was Andrew Stelter, who reached on a walk and an error.

Marshall had a scoring opportunity with one out in the first inning when Coby Brownlee and Josh Kraft reached base on a single and an error respectively. Yet, a shallow fly out and a groundout ended the inning without Marshall pushing a run across the plate. 

Game 2

Willmar 5, Marshall 4

After some back-and-forth in the game’s early innings, Willmar went ahead for good in the fifth. Dylan Staska and Cullen Gregory reached base with one out to start the inning when Thole hit a single to drive in one run, cutting the deficit to 3-2. 

Marshall then subbed out starting pitcher Josh Kraft for Karson Rowe. Braeden Fagerlie drilled the first pitch he saw for a two-run double, making the score 4-3 before Rowe got out of the inning with consecutive strikeouts. 

In the top of the seventh, Willmar added one extra insurance run when Gregory singled and then scored when Thole reached base on an error. The run proved necessary once the Tigers rallied in the bottom half of the inning.

Talan Plante led off Marshall’s last chance to force extras with a 10-pitch walk, including four foul balls. Juehl Morman and Andrew Stelter then each reached safely to load the bases with one out.

A Brownlee groundout drove in Plante to make it a one-run game, 5-4, but a five-pitch strikeout in the next at-bat stopped Marshall shy of tying the game.

Rowe was once again solid in his second relief appearance of the day. In 2 2/3 innings on the hill, he allowed just one unearned run while striking out five batters. He also held Willmar to just two hits and a walk. 

The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the third when Levi Maeyaert, Morman and Stelter reached base consecutively to load the bases with one out. Coby Brownlee drove in the first run but a fly out ended the frame with the score still tied at 1-1.

One inning later, the Tigers rallied again. Liam Kruse led off the fourth inning with a double and a walk to Blomberg put two runners on. Deagan Maurice then laid down a sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position. A strikeout put two down but, after Jordan Ellingson came in to relieve Smith, Maeyaert hit a ground ball and an error allowed two runs to score for a 3-1 Marshall lead.

Willmar didn’t make visiting fans wait long to see the first run of game 2. Connor Smith reached base on an error with one out and was replaced on first by Reiman as a courtesy runner. Reiman advanced to second on a pickoff error and then scored when Mason Thole singled to left field the next at-bat. 

As the starting pitcher for the Cardinals, Smith was perfect through the game’s first two innings. He finished the game with 3 2/3 innings pitched, allowing one earned run and two unearned on two hits and three walks. 

Once he was taken out, Ellingson was nearly perfect in relief. He held Marshall without a hit over 3 1/3 innings, allowing just one unearned run on two walks with seven strikeouts. 

Kraft started game 2 for Marshall, pitching the first 4 1/3 innings for the Tigers. He surrendered three earned runs and one unearned on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts. 

Marshall falls to 8-3 on the year after the doubleheader sweep. They’ll look to bounce back into form when they host New Ulm today at 5:30 p.m.

“If there’s a positive, I don’t think we can play any worse than this and it was still two close games,” Pollock said. 

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