Mustangs settle for third at Hungerford
GILMAN – The Mustang roster is getting shorter by the day.
And to pick up the slack, they’re taking contributions from everybody.
Having yet another player go down Saturday, the East Marshall baseball team took contributions from three different pitchers to handle GMG 5-2 in the consolation final of the Ethan Hungerford Memorial Tournament.
“With our squad right now, any win is a good win,” East Marshall coach Justin Frost said,” which is currently missing three players with injuries.
“Our kids fought hard. We just had to grind it out and fortunately we made just enough plays to come out on top.”
The victory gave the Mustangs (2-7) a split, after losing Sam Benzing to a concussion in their opener, a 12-5 loss to Oskaloosa.
Benzing collided with an Indians’ baserunner while trying to field a ball in the hole between second and third. That mishap came on the heels of Josh Wilson pulling a hamstring against Story City Thursday, while Josh Benzing still has limited range of motion in a swollen elbow he sustained against Vinton-Shellsburg after being hit by a pitch.
Austin Briney, Caleb Benzing and Adam Puumala split the work from the hill. Benzing earned the win allowing one run on two hits, while Puumala picked up the save tossing three shutout innings and gave up just one hit. Briney threw the first two frames allowing one run on three hits, while fanning one.
“All our pitchers threw strikes and that’s one of the problems we’ve had early in the year,” Frost said.
“We’re getting better with that. Adam came in and he’s very efficient. He mixes it up well with the breaking ball and his fastball. He keeps kids off balance and throws lots of strikes.”
The Mustangs finished just one batter shy of going through the order in the bottom of the first to put two runs across, but left the bases juiced. Ryan Puumala scored Caleb Benzing on a RBI single to right field, before pinch runner Luke Svendsen scored on a bases-loaded walk.
Three straight singles helped the Wolverines cut the deficit in half as Tyler Thurston drove in Josh Gruen. Tyson Strayer reached base on an outfield error, though a GMG baserunning gaffe cost the Wolverines a chance to tie the score and Thurston was later thrown out at third on a steal attempt.
GMG (0-5) tied it up in the third with a blooper into shallow left field from Austin Vaughn, though East Marshall’s defense locked things down from there.
DeBondt put the Mustangs ahead for good with a run-scoring single to plate Adam Puumala in the fourth. The freshman reached home again on a wild pitch in the sixth and Nick Long brought in a second insurance run as DeBondt stretched the lead to three.
DeBondt finished 2-for-4, with a run scored and RBI to lead the Mustangs, while Briney (RBI) and Caleb Benzing (R) each batted 1-for-2. Adam Puumala scored twice and Brock Pieters went 1-for-3 with a double.
GMG’s Tyler Thurston (1-for-3) and Austin Vaughn each drove in a run, while Bridger Claassen (1-for-3, R) and Josh Raymond (2-for-4) also contributed at the dish.
Jacob Burt was saddled with the loss allowing three runs on six hits, while walking five and striking out two in four innings. Brandon Weitzell tossed two innings in relief giving up two runs on one hit and three walks.
The Wolverines suffered a 7-0 shutout against Bondurant-Farrar in their first game. The Bluejays (5-2) claimed the tournament title defeating Oskaloosa 10-4 in the final.
DeBondt took the loss from the hill against the Indians (4-1) in the Mustangs opener.
Both squads put three runs across in the first before Oskaloosa grabbed a 7-5 edge with four tallies in the fourth. The Indians tacked on five more in the sixth as Nick Rutledge (3-for-4, 2 R, RBI), Austin Redlich (2-for-3, 2 2B, 3 RBI) and Clay Tucker (3-for-4, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI) powered the Oskaloosa offense.
Ryan Puumala finished 2-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs, while DeBondt scored two twice for the Mustangs. Nick Mommer, Brock Pieters and Briney (1-for-3) each plated a run.
After an imposing starting slate, Frost has seen some encouraging signs from the dish – including a season-best seven runs Friday.
“I knew our first two weeks we had a tough schedule so we have struggled a bit with tbe bats,” Frost said.
“We’re a bit young and we figured it would take some time. It will start coming around, but it just takes a little bit of time.
GMG heads to Montezuma Thursday, while East Marshall travels to AGWSR Monday.
Frost expects Sam Benzing to return in about a week, while Josh Benzing should be available a day or two earlier. Wilson, who was on crutches Saturday, could be out anywhere from two to four weeks.