Marshall Blue stopped at the top

MARSHALL – After playing nearly perfect for most of the Marshall VFW baseball tournament, Marshall VFW Blue was anything but in the championship game against Sioux Falls West (S.D.) on Sunday.

Marshall made eight errors in the game and Sioux Falls West ended the game early, winning 9-1 in six innings.

“We just didn’t make plays, that’s the bottom line,” Marshall VFW Blue head coach Chace Pollock said. “You’ve got to make plays if you want to win ballgames and we didn’t make any of them today.”

Three of Marshall’s eight errors came in the first inning with Sioux Falls West plating four runs in the bottom of the first. The errors were of all varieties as well. Dropped fly balls, grounders in the feet and overthrows each took their toll on Marshall throughout the game.

Offensively, Blue managed just five singles off of Sioux Falls starter Austin Wise. Marshall’s best chance to score came in the third inning, as Blue put runners at first and third with one out.

Conner Winkelman hit a hard grounder to third base, but Noah Winkelman was caught in a run down between home and third. Noah Winkelman was ultimately tagged out.

While Winkelman was caught in his pickle, Brent Andries had rounded second and was advancing towards third. He stopped 20 feet from the base, however, and once Winkelman was tagged out, Andries found himself in a run down and was tagged out in front of second base to end the threat.

Blue scored a run in the fourth, but Sioux Falls West answered back with five runs over the final three innings, invoking an eight-run rule with their pair of scores in the bottom of the sixth.

Aaron Polejewski started and took the loss for Marshall, firing five innings but attacking the strike zone throughout. Dylan Criquet-Danielson allowed both runs in the sixth inning, recording two outs before the deciding run was scored.

“Our last game against West was not indicative of how well we can play,” Pollock said. “We stranded a small army on the base paths and that doesn’t help. We’ve got a long way to go and the kids know that. It was good for us to not get overconfident.”

A better example of how well Blue can play occurred earlier on Sunday, as Marshall rallied from a 4-1 deficit against Sioux Falls East in a championship round semifinal. Blue erupted for nine runs in the third inning and took the game 13-4.

Conner Winkelman picked up the win on the mound in the game, while Noah Winkelman provided the pop for Blue. Noah Winkelman scored twice in the nine-run third inning, crossing home the second time after crushing a grand slam home run. Noah finished the game 2-for-2 with two runs, four RBIs and two walks.

“He hit the ball well today and our team hit, for the most part everybody swung the bat well this weekend,” Pollock said. “There weren’t too many games where we were out of it with our sticks.”

Blue’s highest hit total of the weekend came in Saturday’s nightcap at Legion Field against Willmar.

Marshall needed just four innings to score 14 runs off of 13 hits and five Willmar errors.

Rusty Swanson ended the game 3-for-3 with three runs scored for Blue and pitched the final inning. Derek Rasmussen tossed four scoreless innings and picked up the win for Blue.

Criquet-Danielson, the youngest member of the Blue team, also had an outstanding game at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with two doubles and drove in six runs.

“He’s definitely one of the younger guys here and this summer is a growing process for these kids,” Pollock said. “They’re young, they’re still growing and developing. It’s a learning experience every game for us. Dylan is starting to figure out how to hit good pitching and we saw three very good pitchers this weekend. That’s only going to help us down the road as we continue to move through the summer and into tournament time.”

Blue started Saturday with an impressive 9-4 win over Watertown (S.D.). Marshall swatted 11 base hits off of Watertown pitcher Cody Olson, but perhaps none was more important than Noah Winkelman’s bases loaded single in the third.

Winkelman’s hit knocked in two runs and started a crucial five-run inning for Blue. With a 6-1 lead after three complete, Blue turned the game over to starting pitcher Nate Hoeft. Hoeft went the distance, striking out four and walking none while picking up the victory for Marshall.

Despite the defensive setback in the second game on Sunday, Marshall Blue completed its home tournament with a 4-1 record and a second place finish.

“We’ll keep it going and hopefully the teams had a good experience here and had a good time,” Pollock said of the tournament as a whole. “That’s all we can ask for, hopefully they all had a good experience and will come back. Our kids will love to play in it next year and we’ll definitely try to keep it around.”

Blue (16-8 overall) gets a day off before returning to action to host Olivia at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.