ALLEMAN - Maintaining a collected and consistent approach at the plate, the Trojans were confident that it was only a matter of time before their offense would start clicking.
Held in check through the first five innings, West Marshall scored in its final three at-bats and tallied five hits in the last two frames to rally for a 5-2, eight-inning triumph in a Class 2A District 13 semifinal Tuesday.
"Offensively we had a pretty good mindset from the plate innings 1 through 8," West Marshall coach Jerod Brown said. "East Marshall just made a lot of plays. We always say, 'If you keep hitting the ball hard, eventually something is going to find grass.'"
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
East Marshall catcher Ryan Puumala tags out West Marshall’s Alex Billman in the third inning of Tuesday’s Class 2A District 13 semifinal in Alleman. Sam Benzing assisted on the play with a throw from left field though the Trojans rallied for a 5-2 victory in eight innings.
The Trojans (21-9) found those openings late and advance to face Class 2A No. 2 North Polk in the district final Saturday at 7 p.m. The Comets (27-4) defeated Des Moines Christian (13-22), 5-4, in 10 innings Tuesday.
After each tallying singles in the seventh, Cody Berns and Justin Weitzell came through again in the eighth. Berns plated Jared Johnson, who reached on a walk, with a single to left for the go-ahead run at 3-2. Weitzell added an RBI-single to right to bring in Matt Van Metre before Berns also crossed the plate when the ball was mishandled by the East Marshall (13-17) outfield.
"We're always sticking to our routines and keeping our confidence up there," Berns said of the Trojans' plate approach. "That's what's helping us win the pitches late in the ballgame."
Nolan Sinning threw the final inning in relief and fanned the last two batters after giving up a one-out walk to Josh Wilson and a single to Nick Long. Pieters followed Long and sent a drive screaming down the third-base line that dropped just foul, before Sinning (7-0) closed out the win.
West Marshall broke through in the sixth when Jared Riemenschneider reached on an error, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout, before Jared Johnson plated the senior for the tying run with a groundout to first.
Weitzell gave the Trojans their first lead of the game in the top of the seventh with a run-scoring single to right, bringing in Berns for a 2-1 lead. Berns reached on a single of his own before moving into scoring position on a slip from the Mustangs' outfield.
"They were really disciplined," East Marshall coach Justin Frost said of the Trojan batters. "They didn't swing at a whole lot of balls and they just hit a few holes where we weren't."
Another single by Dylan Petermeier led to Nick Mommer replacing starter Caleb Benzing on the hill. Riemenschneider was hit by a pitch to load the bases though Mommer induced a groundout to escape the jam.
Pieters, who scored the Mustangs' first run in the second, sparked the next score with a sharp drive down the third base line for a double. Pinch runner Adam Puumala knotted the game at 2, when Mommer laid down a bunt and reached on an error when the throw to first caromed into shallow right field.
Mommer moved to third on a groundout by Caleb Benzing before Nate DeBondt drew a walk, though the surge stopped with another groundout to end the inning.
East Marshall made a couple strong defensive plays early to keep West Marshall off the board. Caleb Benzing knocked down a ball at shortstop to save a run in the first, before left fielder Josh Benzing rifled a throw home to Ryan Puumala who tagged out Alex Billman at the plate.
"We played real well, but had a couple errors late that gave them a couple runs," Frost said. "We missed some opportunities early in the game to maybe score another run or two, but offensively we knew we were going to have problems with Riemenschneider."
Riemenschneider allowed two runs on five hits, while issuing three free bases and fanning four in seven innings. Sinning gave up a walk and hit, while retiring two of three batters he faced on strikes.
Mommer (0-1) took the loss allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits, two hit batsmen, one walk and a pair of strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings. At the dish, Mommer plated Pieters with a single to center field in the second inning.
Caleb Benzing threw the first 6 2/3 innings with one of two runs earned. He gave up five hits, hit one batter, walked two and fanned three.
"Coach Brown really prides us upon having confidence for every pitch," said Weitzell, who tallied two singles and 2 RBIs to lead the Trojans. "We focus on the pitch at hand. ... What's in the past is in the past."
With the district semifinals behind them, West Marshall shifts its focus to the Class 2A defending state runners-up, which defeated the Trojans 9-4 in Alleman on July 2.
The Trojans defeated East Marshall 7-2 in Gilman June 7 and 8-3 in State Center June 24 East Marshall loses just two seniors (Brock Pieters and Josh Wilson) from its roster, leaving Frost to believe there's a bright future ahead for the Mustangs.
"We told the kids 'There's a lot of potential to do something special and it's your guys job to harness that' ... Now it's about the off-season stuff and we'll see what we can do in the next few years."