Lopsided loss smudges MCC’s split with Indian Hills

Thankfully for the Tigers, there’s no aggregate scoring in baseball.

And for Marshalltown Community College skipper Rich Grife, it was a welcome respite after a lopsided loss to conclude Sunday’s doubleheader against Indian Hills at Shawn Williams Field.

Outscored by 16 runs on the day, the Tigers still walked away on even ground – though it might not have felt that way.

After squeaking out a 4-3 win in the opener, MCC fell on the short end of a 20-3 five-inning rout in the nightcap.

Though in the scheme of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference standings – the Tigers stayed right where they are.

“A split is a split, it doesn’t matter what the scores are,” said Grife, whose squad sits third in the division (19-19, 9-11) and needed to take three of four from Indian Hills (26-17, 13-7) over the weekend to secure second place.

Matching Sunday’s large discrepancy in runs were two completely different outings from the Tigers’ starting pitchers.

Corey Ceponis turned in a commanding three-hit complete game effort, fanning 12 batters and allowing just three runs in game one. In the nightcap, Jake Whaley was chased after two innings, allowing 10 runs (nine earned) on three hits and six walks, while striking out five.

“The first game was fantastic and Ceponis was really good,” Grife said. “He had both pitches going and he was on.

“In the second game, Jake just wasn’t where he wanted to be and that happens. We kind of had to piece it together and the defense got rough. You put those things together and it gets lopsided.”

In game one, Bennett Mann’s sacrifice fly tied it up at 3 in the bottom of the sixth before Andrew Utterback scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball at home – one of three runs scored off Falcon miscues.

That opportunistic offense was absent in game two.

“We need to take advantage of opportunities a little bit more,” Grife said. “We didn’t do that as much in the second game. “

While the late game got off to a good start, things turned against the Tigers in a hurry.

Leading 1-0 entering the second, MCC came undone with wild pitches, wild throws, three errors and bevy of hits (11) and stolen bases (10) from the Falcons. Indian Hills piled up five runs in the second, five more in the third and 10 in the fourth as the Tigers went through four different pitchers.

None of them could find an answer.

While the Tigers’ offense found a spark with Andrew Utterback’s two-run homer in the third, the surge was short lived as MCC finished with five hits in the game.

Brett Baker lasted an inning and gave up an earned run, Tanner Smith allowed nine runs (eight earned) without an out, before Richard England tossed the final two frames allowing one earned run as the Tigers’ staff combined for as many walks (9) as strikeouts (9). Whaley was saddled with the loss.

Adam Deneke picked up the win for Indian Hills allowing three runs on six hits, while striking out four and walking two in four innings. Jose Marin threw one shutout inning of relief and fanned a pair.

Ty Russell and Eric Kent each had a pair of hits and drove in a run, while Utterback plated a pair.

Taylor Ostrich (2B, 5 RBI) and Dario Polanco (2B, 4 RBI) led the Falcons’ balanced attack.

While Indian Hills made the most of MCC’s miscues in the second game, the Tigers turned the tables in the opener.

After a two-run shot from Tyler Hermann in the first, MCC countered with a couple runs in the bottom of the inning as William Salas and Daryl Blaskovich each scored on wild throws. Darryl Valez’s solo homer briefly put the Falcons back on top in the top of the sixth, before Mann and Utterback accounted for the winning runs in MCC’s last at-bat.

Mann had the team’s lone RBI, while Utterback had two of the Tigers’ seven hits. Falcons’ starter Christian Torres gave up two runs on six hits in five innings, before Derek Kawlewski gave up the last pair of runs on one hit in a losing effort.

While the Tigers’ defense and pitching were issues in the nightcap, Grife believes getting the offense back on track is the main concern.

“Offensively we were really hot and scoring lots of runs,” said Grife of his team’s 7-3 run entering the weekend. “It’s still fine, we’ve just played a bunch of games in a row. We haven’t been able to do that this spring and we just need to get used to it.”

The Tigers host Southwestern Tuesday at 3 p.m. – the first of seven games slated in a six-day span.