Big innings sinking MCC baseball

Rich Grife is confident his club is improving, it’s just not showing up in the box score of late.

And much of that is due to some big numbers flying on the scoreboard in single innings for the opposition.

Undone by a few big frames once again, the Marshalltown Community College baseball team lost a pair to NJCAA No. 14-ranked Iowa Western in an ICCAC Division I doubleheader at Shawn Williams Field Saturday.

The Reivers ambushed the Tigers with a five-run first to take the opener 8-4, before scoring a combined 11 runs in the fifth and sixth of the nightcap to prevail 13-4. The sweep followed a similar narrative from Friday as Iowa Western (37-8, 13-3) completed a four-game series sweep and extended its win streak to 10.

The Tigers (17-26, 5-11) have dropped seven of their last eight with many of those efforts coming undone with the same single-inning outbursts from opponents.

“We’re just in a rut. It’s tough, these last six or seven games we’ve lost it seems like there’s a big inning in there somewhere that we’ve just got to get a hold of and try to stop,” Grife said. “We’re playing better baseball but it doesn’t show because we’ve hit those innings.”

Saturday’s start resumed that rut as the Reivers took advantage of two Tiger errors to ring up five runs in the first.

Dom Thompson-Williams scored on a wild throw, Jason McMurray singled in a run, and Quinn Carpenter plated two more on a double, before Kaden Moore’s sac fly capped the spree.

Another wild throw in the second pushed Iowa Western’s cushion to six before they added on a couple more runs in the fourth to lead 8-0.

MCC outhit the Reivers 10-9 but committed five errors in the first game. The Tigers finally got on the board with three runs in the fourth. Bennett Mann plated Eric Kent with a two-run shot and Aneudis Sandoval’s double drove in Pedro Lopez. MCC added one more run in the seventh on Kent’s RBI double before Iowa Western closed it out.

Jordan Schlehuber led the Reivers with three hits, while McMurray and David Parrett had a pair and Alex Krupa scored three times. Ryan Thrasher and Sandoval both tallied two hits for the Tigers. Sean Johnson allowed three runs on six hits in four innings to claim the win and Richard England (3-2) was tagged for the loss, surrendering eight runs (six earned) in five frames.

MCC got the bats going earlier in game two and opened a 3-1 advantage in the second inning. Mann and Thrasher each singled and Sandoval drove them in with a double to center. Thrasher was initially blocked from the plate but got past Moore to put the Tigers in front. Alexis Melendez followed with an RBI single to score Sandoval and stretch the lead to 3-1.

The Reivers recouped some of the damage with Thompson-Williams’ solo smash in the third, before unloading six runs in the fifth. Iowa Western loaded the bases before Parrett reached on an error, McMurray punched a two-run double up the middle and Jake Scudder drove a two-run homer to right.

Melendez answered with a solo homer in MCC’s next at-bat to trim the deficit to 8-4, but the Reiver bats went to work again with five runs in the sixth.

Thompson-Williams crushed the ball over the left field fence to start the surge and finished 4-for-5, with three runs scored and two RBIs. Parrett followed two batters later with a two-run smash, Scudder ripped a run-scoring triple down the right field line and Moore pushed another run across on a single to finish the flurry at 13-4.

Grife used two pitching changes in the inning but there were few answers for Iowa Western’s potent attack, which tallied 16 hits including six for extra bases.

“They’re one of the best hitting teams in the league,” Grife said. “We’ve got to do a little better job of when something happens behind our pitchers, then they need to step up and make a pitch to get out of it before it gets too bad. They’re young and they’ll get it figured out.”

John Bloom (2-2) took the loss giving up 11 runs on 12 hits in five innings, while Kyle Herrick gave up two runs on three hits in one-third of an inning. Danny Smith tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball with just one hit though the Tigers stranded runners in scoring position in their final two at-bats. Mann and Melendez each had two hits, while Sandoval and Melendez each had two RBIs.

The offense has steadily improved since MCC’s 0-for-4 outing against the Reivers at the end of March, though Grife hopes that can be reflected in the win column after finishing off a rough eight-game stretch against the top two teams in the division.

“We’re swinging better and hitting the ball harder,” Grife said. “It’s getting there, we’ve still got three weeks left to get things right and see what happens.”

MCC starts a six-game homestand with a twinbill against Kirkwood Thursday before opening a four-game series with Muscatine on April 26. The Tigers took all four games from the Cardinals earlier this month scoring a combined 47 runs.

“We’ve got to keep hitting and take it to them,” Grife said. “We have to make sure we put pressure on them and hopefully we get things to come our way a little bit.”