There were points of promise, openings for opportunity.
Marshalltown had moments it looked as though it would knock off Class 4A No. 8 West Des Moines Valley.
Those moments were usually followed by a booming Tigers home run.
T-R PHOTO BY TRAVIS HINES
Marshalltown catcher Paul Fienup, left, readies as West Des Moines Valley’s Nate Marshall slides into home plate during the first game of a CIML Iowa Conference doubleheader Thursday. The Class 4A No. 8 Tigers won both games, 14-11 and 9-2.
Valley hit seven homers, getting three from Austin Stephens, and swept the Bobcats, 14-11 and 9-2, in a CIML Iowa Conference baseball doubleheader Thursday at the MHS diamond.
Game one featured about as many twists and turns, highlights and lowlights for Marshalltown (7-6, 1-3) as it did Valley (11-4, 3-1) moonshots.
The Tigers got first-inning home runs from Tanner Hinkle and Stephens and another bomb from Stephens in the third to build an early 8-0 advantage over MHS.
Marshalltown, however, turned four singles and four Valley errors into six runs in the bottom of the third, and then Bennett Mann and Paul Fienup both delivered bases-loaded singles in the fourth to give the Bobcats an astonishing 10-8 edge.
The joy was shortlived as three-straight Tigers reached base to start the fifth to chase starter Kyle Carnahan from the game, but Noah Lodden, the next batter, blasted a grand slam.
Nate Meyer, hitting out of the nine hole, hit Valley's fifth and final home run of the opener in the sixth inning to put the Tigers up four. Blake Judkins' run-scoring single in the bottom of the seventh pulled MHS to within three, but the Bobcats could pull no closer despite putting the tying run at the plate.
"That's enough runs to win a high school baseball game," said MHS head coach Steve Hanson, "but you've got to make plays and you've got to make intelligent pitches to dangerous hitters."
"We didn't throw enough strikes," he added. "When we did throw a strike it was typically in an offensive count. That's a heavy-duty offensive team given the freedom to sit back and just (hit for power).
"It turned into a slow-pitch softball game."
Judkins had two hits in the opener and Fienup drove in two runs. Carnahan, Hunter Hillygus, Ryan Mitchell and Mann all had one RBI.
The nightcap saw MHS fall into another early hole, giving up two first-inning runs, but starter Colton Hanke was able to dam the flood of the Valley offense over the next three innings.
The Bobcats got an unearned run off of Valley hurler Brock Everett in the second to pull within 2-1, but couldn't do anything else against the junior.
Everett took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, where Carnahan was able to spoil things for him by legging out an infield single.
By that time, Valley had already sealed Marshalltown's fate.
After keeping the Tigers corralled for a spell, Hanke gave up a leadoff homer to Jake Pauley in the fifth, which was followed by an error, a walk, a run-scoring single by Hinkle and Stephens' third homer of the evening.
The first baseman Stephens finished the night 3-for-6 with six RBIs and two intentional walks.
Ben Miller added a run-scoring single in the frame, and MHS' Tre Blackford hit into a fielder's choice to score Brandon Pettigrew in the seventh to account for the final tally.
"Valley's a good team in our league," noted Hanson. "If we aren't able to make plays when we need to, make pitches when we need to there will be a lot of nights like this where you walk away saying, 'Well, we were there for awhile, we scored a lot of runs, but we weren't good enough to get it done.'
"There are a lot of teams like Valley in our league so we just have to become better."
MHS will be tested again today with Des Moines Roosevelt, a preseason Top Ten team, visiting for a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m.