Hot out the gate: Tiger baseball team starts playoffs strong

MARSHALL – It was a near-perfect day of baseball on Saturday for the Marshall Tigers as they outscored their opponents 24-2 in a pair of wins to open the Section 3AA tournament.

The No. 2 seed Tigers clubbed 16 hits for 15 runs in a 15-1 decimation of Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop in five innings to start the day, before coupling 11 hits with five Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove errors in a 9-1 victory over the Falcons in the night cap. RRC/WWG defeated No. 3 seed Benson 6-1 to set up the game against Marshall.

For a team which had not played in nine days, the Tigers were able to put their first-year head coach at ease in his playoff debut.

“You never know how kids will respond to a layoff and you never know how kids will respond to a bunch of games in a short period of time,” Marshall head coach Chace Pollock said. “You never know what to expect and the kids brought it today. They were mentally focused and ready to go right away, and that showed in the first game.”

Of Marshall’s 16 hits against the Thunderbirds, seven were for extra bases. Aaron Mathiowetz and Austin Saugstad combined for four doubles, six RBIs and four runs scored and were 6-for-7 from the plate. Derek Buysse drove in a run on a triple, while Drew Hmielewski belted a two-run double in a three-RBI game for the freshman. Senior catcher Colton Peterson finished the Tigers’ first game 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.

The Tigers blew the game open with a 10-run second inning and led 11-0 before adding four more runs in the fourth.

Mathiowetz pitched three perfect innings for the Tigers, striking out seven GFW batters. He was replaced by Conner Mesman to start the fourth. Mesman walked one batter in an inning of duty. CD Douglas closed out the game for the Tigers, allowing one unearned run on a hit and error in the fifth inning.

“Aaron did a nice job commanding the strike zone and attacking hitters,” Pollock said of Mathiowetz’s start. “The biggest thing is throwing strikes and he did a very nice job of doing that.”

After holding the Thunderbirds to just one hit, the Tigers had the Falcons’ batters on tilt in a 9-1 win in the second game for both Marshall and RRC/WWG.

Peterson got the start on the bump for Marshall, striking out five over five innings. He scattered three hits, but a pair of hit batters and a passed ball helped the Falcons score their only run in the fourth inning off a Dillion Benson single. Peterson turned the ball over to Mesman for the final six outs.

“He did a nice job of throwing strikes. A little bump in the road there, but he got over it and in the end it was only a one-run inning,” Pollock said of Peterson. “We’ll take that. The kids did a nice job of that all together.”

Marshall led 3-1 entering the bottom of the fourth, but scored twice off of three errors by the Falcons in the inning. Another error by RRC/WWG in the bottom of the fifth allowed the Tigers to add four more insurance runs in their victory.

In total, the Falcons committed five errors against Marshall, derailing the chance for a second upset on the day for No. 6 seed RRC/WWG.

“We threw the ball all over the place and when you do that you can’t win,” Falcons head coach Derrick Jenniges said. “I thought our pitchers did a good job of throwing the ball over the plate. We maybe walked a guy and beaned one, but for the most part I thought our pitchers did a good job of throwing the ball over the plate. We fielded the ball cleanly in that game, we just had a hard time throwing it and sometimes that happens.”

Tyler Schoborg took the loss for the Falcons, allowing nine runs (six earned) in 4 1/3 innings pitched. Tyler Martius threw the final 1 2/3 innings for RRC/WWG in the loss.

Mathiowetz again led Marshall at the plate, racking up three hits in four at-bats. He also scored once and knocked in a run. Saugstad was 2-for-3 against the Falcons, scoring twice, while Hmielewski drove in two runs, scored once and stole a base in a 2-for-3 game. Alex Mathiowetz went 2-for-3 for the Tigers as well.

“The whole team, I thought, hit the ball,” Pollock said. “There isn’t one that stands out. All nine guys really swung it and brought it and there wasn’t an easy out in our lineup today.”

RRC/WWG started its day with a 6-1 upset of the No. 3 seed Benson Braves. Brady Bierl allowed one run on four hits and walk, while striking out eight, to earn the win for the Falcons.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Brady,” Jenniges said. “He’s a senior leader for us and he’s been our go-to guy all season long today. When he’s on the mound the guys have a lot of confidence, they play with a little more aggression than they did in Game 2, but that was the outing we expected from Brady today.”

Bierl also drove in the eventual winning run for RRC/WWG with a two-run, two-out double in the top of the sixth, scoring Colby Davis and Dillion Benson.

“That was a big hit for him. He hasn’t been that productive at the plate for us, but to come through as a senior with that big swing, that was great for us,” Jenniges said.

Davis finished the game 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while leadoff man Thomas Blomgren was 2-for-3 with a pair of stolen bases.

Morgan Staton took the loss for the Braves, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings. He also struck out seven.

The Falcons scored three runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-1 lead, recording all three runs off reliever Cody Hammerschmidt. Hammerschmidt walked three and allowed two hits without recording an out in relief. Connor Staton finished the game for Benson.

After losing to Marshall to end their day on Saturday, RRC/WWG was bumped to the losers’ bracket of the Section 3AA playoffs. The Falcons are set to face New London-Spicer at 5 p.m. in Montevideo today.

“We’re just excited about the opportunity to play and play another day, because if you’re there you never know what can happen,” Jenniges said.

Marshall, which has put together a six-game winning streak, will face the last team it lost to on Tuesday. Fairmont, which beat the Tigers 6-1 on May 11, will take on the Tigers at 7 p.m. today at Legion Field.