Timely Tigers take down Riverland

The Tigers didn’t wield the powerful bats or dominant pitching that carried them through the weekend.

But a steady effort on the hill and some timely hitting at the dish were more than enough to carry the Marshalltown Community College baseball team to a non-conference sweep Wednesday.

Making the most of their opportunities and taking advantage of some Blue Devils miscues, the Tigers topped Riverland Community College 5-4 in the opener and 4-2 in the nightcap to improve to 8-1 in their last nine games.

Ryan Thrasher went 4-for-6 at the dish with five RBIs, including a third-inning, three-run double in the opener to put the Tigers (15-19) up 5-0 before the Blue Devils’ rally fell short. The freshman catcher accounted for all of MCC’s scoring by driving in four runs and scoring another.

Danny Smith escaped a couple jams from the hill in game two and allowed just two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings to claim the win. The freshman transfer scattered six hits and struck out five.

Both teams tallied 15 hits overall though the Tigers got theirs in key situations while also pouncing on three errors from Riverland (11-8).

“We had some timely hitting. We’ve been swinging it a lot better than we have today but it was enough to win,” MCC coach Rich Grife said.

“We’re playing better baseball. I don’t know if we’ve turned the corner yet, but it’s better than it was.”

Eric Kent got things going in the bottom of the second with a double as the Blue Devils outfield lost his high fly ball in the sun and swirling wind. Thrasher brought him in with a single to left before scoring on Parker Rolfes’ triple to put MCC up 2-0.

The Tigers followed a 1-2-3 inning in the field with three more runs in the third as Ty Russell and Aneudis Sandoval sparked things with back-to-back singles. Kent was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Thrasher cleared them with a double to center to stretch the lead to 5-0.

Jorge Michael-Bautista evaded a couple threats in the first two frames but was chased in the fourth following a three-run burst. Miguel Castro led off with a solo shot, Clay Fonfara walked and Brock Rude pounded a run-scoring double. A Melvin De La Torre single and ensuing MCC error at first allowed Rude to score and trim the deficit to 5-3.

Kyle Herrick entered in relief and caught an early break when Ruben Correa was tagged out trying to stretch for a double. De La Torre scored on Adam Sellner’s single to bring the go-ahead run to the plate but Herrick retired the next two batters to preserve the lead.

A baserunning gaffe ended the Blue Devils’ final threat as Sellner was picked off at third with a chance to load the bases. John Bloom fanned all three batters in the seventh to record his first of two saves on the day and Michael-Bautista earned the win allowing four earned runs in three innings.

MCC wasted no time getting on the board in the second game with Kent driving in Austin Allen on a double, Thrasher plating Pedro Lopez with a single and Sandoval’s sacrifice fly scoring Kent to earn a 3-0 advantage in the first.

Allen countered Fonfara’s RBI double in the top of the second with a sac fly to score Rolfes in the bottom of the frame. Smith stranded three Blue Devils on the bases in the second and kept Riverland at bay until the sixth where Fonfara’s groundout plated Rileyson Liberia as Smith’s efficient outing came to a close.

“The last couple starts he let those things overcome him but this time he persevered and got through it,” Grife said of Smith weathering a couple early jams.

“He made some pitches, stayed down in the strike zone and gave our bullpen a rest.”

Prince De Marco retired the final batter of the sixth in relief before Bloom sent down the Blue Devils in order again in the seventh.

Each team committed three errors but several other Riverland miscues – and MCC’s ability to take advantage – helped the Tigers continue their recent surge.

“We capitalized a bit more than they did today and that’s why we came out on top in both games,” Thrasher said.

“We’re hitting the ball better and pitching the ball better. We’re playing good defense and the team’s just coming together right now.”

The Tigers will be tested Friday and Saturday with a four-game road series against conference leader Indian Hills CC (24-11). Friday’s first pitch is set for 2 p.m.