Falcons flee to league’s top seed
The American flag flapping wildly in left field signaled the difficulty facing hitters hoping to go deep.
Against a stingy Falcon defense, it wasn’t any easier to find openings in the infield.
Subdued by the wind and some stellar pitching from Indian Hills, the Marshalltown Community College baseball team was swept in its regular season finale Sunday at Shawn Williams Field.
MCC mustered just two hits in a 2-0 loss in the opener and the Falcons’ Nick Green tossed a no-hitter in a 6-0 decision as Indian Hills (38-15, 18-6) solidified the top seed in the NJCAA Region XI Division I Baseball Tournament.
The third-seeded Tigers (21-31, 9-15) will take on No. 2 seed and 11th-ranked Iowa Western (45-10, 19-5) in an opening-round game Saturday at 11 a.m. in Centerville. The winner advances to face host Indian Hills at 5 p.m. in the double-elimination playoff, while the loser faces the Falcons at 2 p.m.
Despite the strong gusts blowing in from right field, the Tigers still challenged the wind on multiple occasions.
Advantage mother nature.
“We just got the ball in the air and swung and missed too many times,” MCC coach Rich Grife said. “We depend too much on the home run ball. We just didn’t do anything to put any pressure on (Green). … It was a tough day. We’ve got to find a way to generate some runs with the wind blowing in.”
Only a second inning walk to Ryan Thrasher separated Green from a perfect game as the freshman from Fountain, Colorado reached 93 miles per hour on the radar gun. Green retired the final 17 batters in order and needed just five strikeouts while his defense took care of the rest.
“He threw harder than anyone we’ve seen in a while,” MCC home run leader Bennett Mann said. “You’ve got to get geared up more and you’re late so you just foul it off or the wind pushes it foul when he’s throwing hard. That’s what made it hard today.”
MCC didn’t have much luck against Indian Hills’ other arms either as the Tigers tallied two hits in the opener and helped the Falcons’ cause with a couple errors.
Indian Hills took advantage of the first one to claim a 1-0 edge in the fourth. Junior Santos reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second and third before crossing the plate on a hanging fly ball from Jake Lewis that glanced off Daryl Blaskovich’s glove in shallow center field.
The Falcons flourished with small ball again in the fifth.
Dario Polanco drew a walk and stole second before coming all the way home on Caleb Ratzman’s RBI single. Ratzman stole second and advanced to third on Thrasher’s wild throw but Austin Battaglia ended the threat with a strikeout.
Battaglia (2-5) did his part from the mound allowing just four hits and one earned run in seven innings, but got little help from his offense as MCC put just one runner in scoring position. The freshman fanned seven and issued two walks in the loss.
“He did fine, he just left a couple pitches up,” Grife said of Battaglia. “He pitched good enough to get it done, we just didn’t score any runs. We knew coming in that the wind was blowing in, we just didn’t do anything about it.”
Mann and Blaskovich had the Tigers’ lone hits of the afternoon as Alsis Herrera earned the win with six strikeouts in a five-frame, one-hit effort. Cody Hinson and Jose Marin threw the final two innings in relief as MCC struck out nine times.
“They were throwing strikes right away, they were never behind in the count,” Mann said. “When they’re up 0-1 or 0-2, then we’re back on our heels. They just did that all day and we didn’t.”
The Falcons gave Green more than enough run support with three runs in the second inning of game two. Edgar Lebron and Dario Polanco each laced RBI singles before Joel Booker was beaned with the bases loaded to chase starter Alex McCune.
Paolo Montezuma plated Junior Santos on a groundout in the fourth to stretch the lead to 4-0 before Indian Hills added some insurance in the seventh. Booker and Santos hit back-to-back run-scoring singles as Booker moved into scoring position on a Blaskovich bobble before Santos drove him in.
Booker drove in two runs, while Santos and Lebron each had two hits. MCC went through four pitchers with McCune (1-6) surrendering three runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings in the loss. Prince de Marco threw 1 1/3 innings of hitless ball, while Kyle Herrick and Julio Batista each threw two frames. Herrick gave up a run and Batista allowed two (one earned) and recorded all four of MCC’s strikeouts.
Indian Hills took three in the four-game series with a 14-0 five-inning shutout Saturday in Centerville. The Tigers were blanked on the scoreboard in back-to-back games for the first time since April 3 at Kirkwood.
After several days of rain and wet conditions altered their practice schedule and moved Saturday’s twinbill to Centerville, the Tigers have five days to prepare for the Reivers.
“We haven’t really been able to get outside and practice yet since it rained all week,” Mann said. “Getting a full week of practice, hitting more and sharpening everything up will have us ready to get after it this weekend.”
A few scouts were on hand to see Green including one with the Texas Rangers. … Indian Hills received votes in the latest NJCAA Division I poll. … The Region XI Division I Tournament concludes Saturday with a fourth game for the championship and, if necessary, a fifth game.