Steve Hanson doesn't care about the name on the opponent's jersey.
Or the ranking and record beside it.
For the Marshalltown baseball team to reach the level it's hoping to attain, the transformation starts and ends with the Bobcats themselves.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown sophomore Grant Thimesch shows the ball to the umpire after tagging out North Polk’s Reed Smith on a pickoff at second. The Class 2A No. 2-ranked Comets won 3-2 to claim their 12th straight victory.
Taking on another elite foe in Class 2A No. 2 ranked North Polk, Marshalltown couldn't do enough for its cause and committed three errors, dropping a 3-2 non-conference game at the MHS diamond Friday.
"They made more plays, they threw more strikes. And we got beat," Hanson said after the Bobcats (7-7) dropped their third straight game.
"When our opponent throws more strikes and makes more plays - regardless of who that opponent is - we're probably going to lose."
The Comets (14-1) picked up their 12th straight win behind an efficient outing from Cole Jackson on the hill. The junior tossed a complete game allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out six. Jackson didn't issue a walk and threw 52 of his 73 pitches for strikes.
Trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the third, the Bobcats moved within striking distance with a run in both the third and fourth innings.
Grant Thimesch lifted an RBI single into the gap to plate Connor Ruddick in the third. Mason McCarville and Ruddick opened the Bobcats' at-bat with back-to-back singles, though McCarville was picked off at second. Ruddick moved into scoring position on a balk, before Thimesch brought him home.
Hunter Hillygus crossed home on a wild pitch in the fourth after opening the inning with a right field double. Hillygus advanced to third on Dylan Diveney's groundout before one of Jackson's few errant pitches allowed the Bobcats to trim the deficit to one.
Ruddick was stranded at third in the fifth, while Jackson retired all sixth batters in the final two frames.
Though they were within a run of the Class 2A defending runners-up, there was no moral victory for Hanson or his team.
"Whether we're playing No. 2 or 302, it doesn't matter," Hanson said. "Our opponent really doesn't matter. We have to take care of ourselves and we really haven't done that."
The Comets took advantage of the Bobcats' miscues as two of their three runs were unearned. Russ Greene scored the first run in the opening frame on a right field fly by Brandon Corey that bounced out of Derek Mann's glove.
Wyatt Hogue started the second with a standup double and reached home on Jake Hadaway's right field triple. Hogue drove in the Comets' final run in the third with a line drive single to send in Brandon Cory, who reached first on an error.
Starter Colton Hanke was chased after 1 1/3 innings allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks. Tyler Moranville escaped a couple bases-loaded jams but surrendered one unearned run on two hits and fanned three. Ryan Mitchell struck out a pair and gave up two hits in two innings, while Blake Judkins threw the final frame with a strikeout and a walk. Of the Bobcats' 109 pitches, only 63 were strikes.
"(North Polk) is very good - that's an excellent team," Hanson said. "Against a good opponent or any opponent, if you can't be efficient you're really going to struggle. That's where we're at right now."
Hillygus led the Bobcats at the plate hitting 2-for-3 with a run scored, while Thimesch provided the lone RBI.
The Bobcats host Mason City (3-6) in a Central Iowa Conference Northern Division doubleheader Monday.
Wrapping up a week against two of the better teams in the state, Hanson noted his team's progress will be made in victories, not close games.
"I hope that none of our guys our content with playing Valley and North Polk close," Hanson said. "We don't care where they're ranked. They're good teams, but we don't aspire to be close - we aspire to be good. And we're not there right now."
The Comets' only loss this season came against Class 4A No. 5 Urbandale, 4-3. North Polk defeated Class 4A No. 1 Ankeny, 3-0, earlier this year and is coming off a runner-up finish at the state tournament. ... Comets' senior pitcher Jacob Hadaway was selected to the 2012 All-State Super Team, while Grant Lang (Jr.) made the Class 2A first team as a utility player. Reed Smith (Jr.) earned second team honors in the outfield. ... Four of the Bobcats' seven losses have come against Class 4A ranked foes including twin bill sweeps against No. 3 Valley and No. 7 Fort Dodge.