Marshalltown High School baseball coach Steve Hanson knows the season is still young. But that doesn't mean he isn't concerned with the lack of defensive efficiency.
Starting pitcher Colton Hanke gave Johnston six free bases and the Dragons also took advantage of some miscues in the field during their 5-3 victory at the MHS diamond Tuesday.
The second game of a scheduled doubleheader was washed out due to rain and the potential for violent storms in the area.
The defending Class 4A state champions scored four of their five runs during a second inning that included three walks and a Marshalltown error. It was one of two errors on the day, but the Bobcats also struggled to make the routine plays look easy in losing their first game of the season.
"I don't think we threw enough strikes throughout the game and when we got ahead in the counts, we were not effective in moving the ball out of the zone and away from the plate," said Hanson. "Our defense also forced (Hanke) into probably around 20 extra pitches because we were unable to make easy, routine plays that you have to make at the 4A level."
On the flip side, Johnston's Clayton Holcomb walked just one in earning his first win of the year. He fanned four and allowed six hits but four of those came in Marshalltown's three-run sixth inning.
The Bobcats had just two hits - both doubles from senior Mason McCarville - through the first five innings before finally breaking through in the sixth. Marshalltown (3-1) went down in order four times and stranded four runners on base.
"(Holcomb) was around the plate, he mixed in different speeds and he threw more strikes than we did," said Hanson. "He forced us into some swings that probably weren't great swings early and they made the plays behind him. We didn't have many opportunities. When we got guys on base, we were able to make things happen, but we just didn't get enough guys on base."
Both teams went down in order in the first, but Johnston (7-0) plated four in the second to take an early advantage.
Drew Woods laced a double over Dylan Diveney's head in center field and then Hanke walked both Stitzell and Matt Shaver to load the bases.
The first run crossed the plate when the Bobcats dropped a routine fly ball in right field and then RBI singles from No. 9 hitter Sergio Alaniz and leadoff hitter Andrew Heuss made it 4-0.
"You won't win games with two errors and six walks in a game at any level," said Hanson. "And not only were there six walks, there also were some hits that we gave up in 0-2, 1-2 situations."
Johnston got another run in the fifth when Reid Sinnett led off the frame with a single and then went to third following two more walks by Hanke. Sinnett was eventually plated on an RBI sacrifice fly to center by Nolan Monthei.
Diveney doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth for Marshalltown and then the Bobcat senior went to third on Grant Thimesch's bunt single. A double steal plated Diveney and Hanke's infield single kept momentum with Marshalltown.
Austin Sowers made it 5-2 with an RBI ground out to the shortstop and Michael Schrempf gave the Bobcats another run with an RBI single.
Unfortunately for the home team, that is all they could muster against Holcomb.
"We just didn't put enough pressure on them in the first five innings," said Hanson. "We haven't seen a live pitch for about a week. The top of the lineup came up for third time in the sixth inning so that was helpful."
Johnston is 7-0 and, despite being the defending state champions, was not ranked in the 4A preseason poll. "They are the defending state champions and undefeated, what more do they need to do?" posed Hanson. "Why couldn't they be ranked?" ... Tuesday's game against Johnston was the first since last Wednesday. ... The Dragons have nine errors in seven games, while Marshalltown has 11 errors in four games. ... Rain began to fall late in the first game. The umpires and coaches met at homeplate following the conclusion of the opener and eventually decided to call off the nightcap.