Tiger baseball team struggles in Alexandria

A trip to lake country proved unkind to the Marshall baseball team as the Tigers dropped a pair of games in Alexandria on Saturday. The Tigers opened up the day with a 2-1 loss to St. Michael-Albertville before errors derailed a string of good play by Marshall in an 11-0 loss to Alexandria.

Marshall mustered just three hits for one run against Brandon Rankila in the opening game loss. The STMA southpaw pitched six innings, allowing the run on an RBI fielder’s choice by Marshall’s Leo Zerr in the fifth inning, before turning the ball over to Jordan Joseph for the save.

“It was the first lefty we had seen and he threw three pitches for strikes,” Marshall head coach Chace Pollock said of Rankila. “It wasn’t overpowering by any means, but he kept us off balance. He did a nice job mixing up his pitches. We couldn’t solve his puzzle.

“All we had to do was get one more run on the board and we’re playing extra innings,” he added. “It wasn’t enough.”

Adam Kovash took the loss on the mound for the Tigers in his first start of the season, allowing two runs on five hits and five walks in 3 1/3 innings. Jared Holland made his debut for Marshall this spring in relief, giving up no hits in 2 2/3 innings of duty.

“Both kids came out and competed for us,” Pollock said. “It was Kovash’s second outing this year and Holland’s first, so it was good to get those guys out on the mound and get them some experience. We were very proud of the way they competed.”

The Tigers turned to a more familiar arm this season to start their second game of the day. Conner Mesman, who had been an effective reliever for Marshall through the first five games of the year, was roughed up for seven unearned runs in 1 2/3 innings. He took the loss as the Tigers surrendered 11 runs on 10 hits and seven errors, falling to the Cardinals 11-0 in five innings.

“You never want to have the excuse of weather and there’s no excuse for errors, but we were on a good run there,” Pollock said. “From New Ulm to St. Michael-Albertville, I don’t think we committed one error. But the flood gates opened there against Alex. They were hitting balls hard, but they’re plays that we’ve made in the past. We need to continue to get better defensively. There’s no hiding that. We’ve just got to do some little things fundamentally to clean that up.”

Alexandria’s lone earned run came off of Holland in the fourth inning. Between Mesman and Holland, Zerr worked 1 1/3 innings on the mound, allowing three unearned runs.

Saturday was the first time Zerr, a senior middle infielder and pitcher, had appeared for the Tigers. Zerr injured his ankle during the hockey season, missing the entire postseason and what could have been the first month of the baseball season. Pollock said the plan is to slowly phase Zerr back into the fold.

“We’re going to try to figure out a way to work Leo back into this thing,” Pollock said. “He’s chomping at the bit to get there just as much as the coaches want him to get in the game. We’ve just got to, like we told Leo, play it day by day. It’s a muscle that he’s working on to repair, so it’s not going to do any harm to get out there and work on that muscle, it just hasn’t been used in awhile. We have to build that strength back up, similar to any other muscle injury, but he’s working at it and we just have to be smart and listen to him and listen to the ankle.”

The Tigers (3-4 overall) return home for a big week. Marshall hosts five games at Legion Field during the week, beginning with a Southwest Conference doubleheader against Luverne on Tuesday. Pipestone pays a visit for a twin bill on Thursday, before Marshall takes on defending Section 3AA champion Fairmont for a single game on Friday.

“It’ll be nice to play at home. This will be our first chance to get out to Legion Field, the first of many chances that these kids will have over the summer,” Pollock said. “All the kids are excited to get out there and get to work. It’ll be nice to get out there and hopefully pick up some wins along the way and play some good baseball.”