At the midway point of the regular season, Marshalltown Community College leadoff hitter Ben Lott found himself batting .299 - 58 points lower than a freshman campaign that gained him all-Region XI honorable mention selection.
So the sophomore second baseman from Ottumwa got together with his father, pinpointed a number, made a chart and has been crossing of hits one at a time.
Forty-five hits later, Lott hit his goal on the head - just like the MCC baseball team did to Muscatine.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Catcher Kyle Simpson, left, and pitcher Nick Weeter of Marshalltown Community College celebrate the final out of the first game in Sunday’s ICCAC Division I doubleheader against Muscatine at Shawn Williams Field. MCC defeated the Cardinals by scores of 8-0 and 6-0 to complete the weekend sweep.
Marshalltown swept the four-game ICCAC Division I weekend series with the Cardinals, finishing off an 8-0 season sweep of Muscatine with Sunday's 8-0 and 6-0 victories.
Lott brought his batting average to a team-high .388 with nine hits in four games this weekend - one more hit than Muscatine - to lead the third-seeded Tigers into the Region XI Tournament starting Friday at Indian Hills.
MCC (26-29, 17-15) will meet the second-seeded host Falcons (33-22, 20-12) in their 2 p.m. postseason opener on Friday at Pat Daugherty Field in Centerville, trying to turn around a 1-7 record against Indian Hills this spring.
"I feel like, with these four wins this weekend, we can come off playing with our heads up," said Lott. "Everybody hit well, everybody pitched well, everybody played good defense.
"We've got a chip on our shoulder because we feel like Indian Hills took quite a bit from us and we're going down there to get it back."
Nothing like a dominant weekend series to get the confidence flowing for the regional tournament. Marshalltown outscored Muscatine (7-47, 3-29) by a combined 26-1, outhit the Cardinals 38-8, made only one defensive error and got a handful of prolific pitching performances.
"This whole weekend we played defense and pitched the ball well," said MCC head coach Rich Grife. "That lets our offense relax and not have to carry the load."
On Sunday at Shawn Williams Field, MCC rode Blake Brommel's right arm nearly to the end of an 8-0 opener. Nick Weeter came on to get the final out for Brommel, who allowed four singles and one walk while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings for the win.
Muscatine failed to advance a baserunner to second.
"Brommel had a great start, he was good and he's come a long way," said Grife. "He can change speeds and move it around and he had all three pitches working today. His last three starts have been as good as anybody's."
William Salas led the Tiger bats with a 3-for-4, three RBI plate performance. Five others - Lott, Bryce Manning, Kyle Simpson, Tyler Evans and Anderson Villarroel - had two hits apiece. Jordan McCoy added a two-run triple.
Andrew Utterback made a pair of highlight-reel catches in right field. He tracked down a fly ball in foul ground just before running into the fence, and later made a diving catch deep in the gap.
Marshalltown wrapped up the weekend romp with four pitchers combining on a one-hitter in a 6-0 triumph. Muscatine leadoff batter Tyson Zarowny started the game with a single off Ben Ryder but would stand as the only Cardinal to get a hit in the game.
Ryder went two scoreless innings, as did Max Chadsey and Weeter, and Zack Throckmorten pitched a perfect seventh to complete the staff shutout.
The quartet combined to strike out six while walking just three. For the weekend, MCC pitching had a 26:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio with two hit batsman.
Muscatine batted just .093 over the four-game onslaught.
"The pitching really came through, it's been a long season," said Lott. "They came through by throwing a lot of strikes, they really filled it up. They only gave up eight hits as a crew.
"If they can keep pitching like this, that will always give us a chance to win."
Steven Murtha's two-run home run capped MCC's scoring in the second game, chasing Muscatine starter Chris Fields from the mound in the bottom of the fifth.
Lott doubled and scored on a McCoy groundout in the first, and Lott's two-run single in the second plated Utterback (walk) and Grant Seuferer (single) for a 3-0 Tiger lead.
Cody Munsinger added a double, Melwing Rodriguez had an infield single, and Lott finished 3-for-3 - checking off that last square on his chart.
"About halfway into the season I was hitting about .295 and I figured to get to .380-.390 I had to get about 45 more hits," said Lott. "That last hit was the 45th. I've got it on a corkboard and everything. I had nine (hits) left coming into (Saturday)."
Lott batted 9-for-12 over the weekend with two doubles, a triple, two stolen bases, and was a judgement call away from his seventh home run.
"He's really coming around, he was close to .360 last year," said Grife. "He doesn't get beat by pitches, he knows the (strike) zone and he's athletic enough to get to any pitch."
And now the Tigers will try to get to Indian Hills in Friday's regional tournament opener.
"Momentum, momentum was the key (this weekend)," added Grife. "Going into this weekend we've been scuffling a bit but we finally got some consistent play defensively and on the mound."