Roland-Story stops Mustangs’ run

STORY CITY – Roland-Story’s batting order remained fluid up until the postseason.

That rotation could be set in motion once again after Saturday’s performance.

Getting a boost from the bottom of the lineup, the fifth-ranked Norsemen scattered 11 hits among seven batters en route to a 7-1 victory over East Marshall in the Class 2A District 5 final at Norsemen Field.

Zach Hovick allowed just one run on six hits and struck out eight in seven innings as Roland-Story (25-12) received three hits, three RBIs and two walks from its 7-8-9 batters.

“They outhit us and they had the key hits when they needed them,” Mustang coach Justin Frost said. “They got runners on early in innings and they cashed in. The bottom of their order was really, really good. We didn’t plan on them doing that so give those kids credit.”

John Barclay, batting in the Norsemen’s No. 9 spot, hit 2-for-3 including a two-run single to left field that gave Hovick all the run support he needed at 3-0 in the bottom of the second. Jake Ford, batting eighth, preceded Barclay’s drive with a sac fly to bring in Tyler Hovick for the game’s first run.

The Norsemen’s No. 7 hitter, Andrew Schlatter, got things started in the fourth with a leadoff single up the middle. After a force out at second, Barclay’s single past third moved Ford in scoring position and Zach Hovick drove in Ford with another single through the Mustang infield.

“We’ve had kind of a weird batting order all year switching guys in and out,” Barclay said. “When we got to the postseason, (Coach Chris Hill) made a decision about who it is. A lot of guys have been stepping up even if they haven’t been playing varsity all year.”

After not moving a runner into scoring position through the first four frames, East Marshall (26-8) got going in the fifth with back-to-back two-out singles from Josh Benzing and Nick Mommer, though Zach Hovick caught Austin Briney looking to end the inning.

Down to their last out of the inning, the Mustangs broke through in the sixth with Sam Benzing drawing a walk, Nick Long roping a single to right and Ryan Puumala plating Sam Benzing on a single to center. Zach Hovick retired Zach Rubenbauer on strikes as the Mustangs left two runners on and stranded six in the game.

Alex Urbanek added some insurance in the bottom half with a bases-clearing double to right to stretch the lead back to six. Josh Benzing’s leadoff single in the seventh was quickly nullified as Hovick fanned the next three batters to seal the win.

Nick Long (8-1) sustained his first loss on the hill allowing seven runs on 11 hits over six innings. He walked three and struck out none in six innings.

“I’m not used to pitching against a team like that,” Long said. “Their lineup has seen pitchers like me so they’re going to be able to hit the ball a little bit better than the competition I’ve played against.”

Long helped his cause with a 2-for-3 effort at the plate, while Josh Benzing went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Puumala and Mommer each hit 1-for-3. Zach and Tyler Hovick each had two hits for the Norsemen, who advance to play Waterloo Columbus (23-16) in the Substate 3 Final Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Marshalltown.

“(Long) kind of got into a rhythm where he was throwing a lot of fastballs and so we were looking fastball early a lot,” Zach Hovick said. “That definitely helps when you kind of know what’s coming. He started mixing it up late, but we kind of got him a little bit before that.”

Saturday’s score matched the Norsemen’s previous win against the Mustangs on June 5 in Gilman, though Hill sensed the result could have been much closer.

“We knew it was going to be a good game and it really was – minus a couple hits that we were able to come through,” Hill said. “(East Marshall) played really well on the defensive side and they swung it well too. We were just fortunate enough that they didn’t get a lot of hits once they did get the runners in scoring position.”

Notebook

East Marshall had won eight of it last nine games but was limited to its lowest scoring output since June 9. The Mustangs graduate just two seniors – Rubenbauer and Puumala – from its 21-man roster and return eight players from Saturday’s starting lineup. “This is where we want to be, we want to be like Roland-Story,” Frost said. “We’ll see how much time and effort the kids put in next year to see if we can make that happen.” … Waterloo Columbus defeated Dike-New Hartford 1-0 in eight innings in Parkersburg.