Mudcats’ wood bats stay silent

MARSHALL – Hits came at a premium on the opening night of the US Bank Mid-Summer Classic Legion wood bat tournament at Legion Field. The Marshall Mudcats and Springfield combined for just four hits over the seven-inning game, with Springfield riding their 3-1 edge in the hit column to a 3-1 advantage in runs.

Marshall’s only hit came in the top of the fourth when Matt Campion blistered a ball into left field. The line drive broke up a then-perfect game for Springfield starter Shawn Anderson, who picked up the win behind seven innings of work with six strikeouts.

“He definitely worked backwards and kept a lot of guys off balance,” Mudcats manager Jeremy Ische said of Anderson. “He got ahead with his curveball, his two-strike pitch was a splitter. I think we had six strikeouts and in a 21-out ballgame, that’s 30 percent of your outs. It makes it tough to make something happen. (Springfield) kicked it around a little bit, but I can’t remember too many games that I’ve ever won with one hit.”

Springfield made three errors behind Anderson, with the final error leading to Marshall’s only run.

Leo Zerr reached base in the sixth on a one-out walk, Anderson’s only free pass of the game, and stole second for the Mudcats. Campion then hit a broken-bat ground ball to Springfield shortstop Cooper Scheffler.

Scheffler’s throw was high and well wide of first base, while heads-up base running by Zerr turned the overthrow into a two-base error and a Mudcat run.

The Mudcats were unable to inflict anymore damage in the inning, however, ending the threat on a pair of groundouts.

After an unearned run for Springfield in the bottom half of the sixth brought the score to 3-1, the Mudcats went down in order in the seventh on three quick at-bats.

“With the wood bats we’ve got to start putting the ball in play more. We struck out too many times,” Ische said. “We’ve got to make them make a play on it, bunt it, whatever it is, maybe more of a small-ball approach. Give credit to their pitcher, though. He has 53 1/3 innings pitched on the season, just three earned runs. He’s no slouch and can definitely get some outs.”

Campion, who played collegiately this past season at Concordia-Moorhead, is one of the few Mudcats with experience at the Legion level. With two more games scheduled for today against quality opponents in Willmar and Waconia, the Mudcats will look to Campion for an offensive spark.

“Matt’s a good kid. You look at him and he’s an extra year guy,” Ische said. “He’s got that extra year of eligibility and he’s definitely a leader. He’s outspoken in the dugout, that’s fun to watch him lead the younger guys around. I think they kind of feed off of him. Offensively he’s got a nice swing, he’s just got to stay back a little bit and drive the ball up the middle.”

Springfield scored its first two runs by taking advantage of two lead-off walks.

Tim Kruger was walked to start the second and after a hit batter, fielder’s choice and Jordan Vogel sacrifice fly came around to score the game’s opening run.

Cole Milbrath led off the fifth with a walk, ending the night for Mudcats’ starter Colton Peterson. Zerr entered in relief inducing a ground ball to third base for the first out. Sam Beier then singled to right field, while Jacob Menage dropped down a safety squeeze to score Milbrath and give Springfield a 2-0 lead.

Though he was credited with the loss, Peterson helped preserve arms for a busy second day of the tournament for the Mudcats. Peterson went four-plus innings with two runs on one hit, three walks and two hit batters.

“Him going deep in that ball game, it’s big for us in this pool play setting,” Ische said. “The three walks that we did allow resulted in those runs, so that’s obviously the unfortunate part. If we can throw strikes and play defense in this, I think we’ll have a good chance to win the tournament and hopefully we can do a better job of that tomorrow.”

The Mudcats (2-1 overall) open play today against Waconia at 10 a.m. at Legion Field before closing out the day against Willmar with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.