Norsemen bats come up clutch against East Marshall
GILMAN – Prior to Thursday’s non-conference matchup with Roland-Story, the bad inning hadn’t really affected the end result for the East Marshall baseball team.
Against the Norse, it finally came back to bite the Mustangs.
Roland-Story scored five of its seven runs off key two-out hits and the Norse also took advantage of a pair of two-out miscues from the Mustang defense during a 7-1 victory here Thursday.
The Norse plated four runs in the third after an error by East Marshall and the Mustangs went 1-for-8 at the plate with runners in scoring position.
“The guys have been doing a good job of making sure they put the ball in play and seeing if it can find a hole,” said Roland-Story coach Chris Hill. “But I am more impressed with the pitching and defense. That has been sharp the past week or so. It was rocky early, but the guys have cleaned it up and hopefully we can keep that up moving forward.”
The Norse (8-3) did not commit an error in the win and got nearly six innings from Tyler Hovich on the mound. Hovich alllowed six hits and three walks in his 5 2/3 innings but also fanned seven, including back-to-back strikeouts in the fourth after the Mustangs began the frame with three consecutive hits.
Roland-Story broke a scoreless tie in the third when they plated four runs on just two hits but got help from East Marshall miscues in the field. Nick Moore walked to start the frame and then went to second following a sacrifice bunt.
Ben Clark got the Norse’s first two-out RBI of the game and then Hovich also reached with an infield single. An error by East Marshall (8-3) on the Norse’s next at-bat allowed the visitors to take a 2-0 lead. Two more unearned runs crossed the plate later as Andrew Schlatter delivered another two-out RBI single.
“It’s been like this all year where one inning has really affected the outcome of the game. It wasn’t anything different tonight,” said East Marshall coach Justin Frost. “We just have to tighten up things on the defensive side of it and make the necessary plays when they are needed.”
The Mustangs’ best chance to carve into their four-run deficit came in the fourth inning when they began the frame with three straight hits.
Sam Benzing tripled and then scored on Nick Long’s RBI single. Ryan Puumala also singled to put runners on first and second with no outs, but Hovich got a fly ball to centerfield and back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
East Marshall went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position that inning and left nine runners on base in all.
Roland-Story stranded six runners on base but came through with five two-out RBI hits in the victory.
“They did a really good job of putting the ball in play,” said Frost of Roland-Story. “Any coach will tell you that your biggest hits of the game are the ones with runners on base and two outs.
“We’ve been looking for that all year. I think it will come. We have some kids that can swing it pretty well, but it seems like right now we are not getting the clutch hits.”
Hovich prevented another two-out RBI hit in the fifth when he got out of another jam with a strikeout. Nate DeBondt and Benzing each singled with two outs to give the Mustangs another chance to close the gap on their deficit, but Long swung and missed at strike three for the final out.
The Norse pushed the lead back to four in the fifth when they plated another run. Clark began the frame with a double and Alex Muhlenburg walked and then stole third before scoring on an overthrow to second base.
Roland-Story chose to double steal on more than one ocassion with runners on first and third with two outs. It paid off for the Norse as they won their third straight game and have outscored their opponents 14-1 during that stretch.
“The first and third with two outs is just a situational thing. It just depends on who is up and how many outs we have,” said Hill.
Benzing entered the game with a batting average under .100 but finished a home run shy of the cycle. He doubled with two outs in the seventh but was stranded on the bag after Clark got the final out on a ground ball to second. Clark got the final four outs in the game.
Caleb Benzing also had two hits for the Mustangs, who had their three-game win streak snapped.
Clark, Muhlenburg, Schlatter and Jerold Fritz all had two hits each for the Norse, who finished with 12 hits in the victory.
East Marshall is 5-0 in North Iowa Cedar League West Division play and next travel to Beaman to face BCLUW today at 7:30 p.m. … The Norse’s other two two-out hits came in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively. … Austin Briney started on the mound for the Mustangs and dropped to 0-2 on the season after allowing five runs – two earned – on seven hits and two walks. Hovich’s win improved his record on the year to 2-0.