MARSHALL - Alex Fenske said he had had this game circled on his calendar for a while.
The Marshall senior was the starter back on April 24 when the Tigers gave up four runs to Worthington in the bottom of the seventh and lost 7-6 in eight innings. At the time, it was Marshall's second straight Southwest Conference loss to open the season. Seven straight conference wins later, the Tigers had revenge and a possible share of the SWC title on their minds as they met up with Worthington on Tuesday at Legion Field.
Fenske took the ball again, and this time he didn't allow the Tigers to slip up. The 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out 10 batters and gave up just three hits to help lift Marshall to a 6-1 win.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Marshall’s Alex Fenske, center, throws a pitch while Worthington base runner Rylan Scholtes, left, and Marshall first baseman Ben Geary look towards home during the fifth inning of Tuesday’s Southwest Conference game at Legion Field. Fenske struck out 10 batters and gave up just three hits in a complete-game win.
"Alex, he did the same thing in Worthington until the last inning where we kind of fell apart and he lost a little bit of his curveball," Marshall head coach Steve Fleck said. "Today, through seven innings of baseball, he threw as good as any high school kid I've seen in a long time.
"He really did a good job of leading people off with his breaking ball. He had that working all game and that was the difference between this game and when we were in Worthington. He had control of two good pitches today and he just pitched a gem."
The victory moves Marshall to 8-2 in the conference (11-3 overall), while the Trojans now sport a 7-2 SWC mark (10-3 overall). Jackson County Central, which the Tigers will face Thursday in a doubleheader to close their conference schedule, is also 8-2 in SWC play.
Worthington000 010 0-1 3 1
Marshall330 000 X-6 6 0
WORTH-Jon Reller, Blake Rogers (5). MAR-Alex Fenske. WP-Fenske. LP-Reller.
Fenske's first pitch of the game was laced to left field by Lucas Henning. After that, the Marshall starter was in total control. He struck out the side in the second and faced the minimum number of batters in four innings. He faced four batters in two of the other three innings. His only hint of a struggle came in the fifth when Worthington scored its lone run on a walk and a pair of singles.
For Fenske, the key to his dominant outing was to stay cool and collected.
"Just take it a batter at a time, keep my focus," Fenske said. "Coach Fleck said, 'Just take your time out there, get relaxed and take deep breaths.' It helps."
It also helped to have the Tigers score all six of their runs in the first two innings.
While Fenske was cruising on the mound, Worthington starter Jon Reller had a hard time finding the strike zone. He walked Mason Schnaible and Fenske in the first inning and Marshall got RBI base hits by Matt Campion and Colton Peterson as the Tigers scored three runs in the first.
Reller got the first two Tiger batters to ground out to start the second inning, then walked Schnaible for the second time. Leo Zerr, Campion and Riley Carpenter followed with back-to-back-to-back singles, Fenske reached second on a liner to center that was dropped by the outfielder, and Peterson drew a walk before Reller was able to end the inning with another groundout. But the damage was already done and Marshall had built a commanding 6-0 lead.
Zerr finished the game 2-for-3 and was hit by a pitch, and Campion was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. After connecting for five timely hits in the first two innings, the Tigers had just one hit over last four innings, but had a handful of sharply-hit balls during that span.
With no miscues in the field, a solid performance at the plate, and Fenske's gem on the mound, Fleck said he couldn't have asked for anything more from his players in Tuesday's key conference showdown.
"It was our best game in terms of putting it all together - pitching, defense and hitting," Fleck said. "We've talked to the guys and we've said, 'The minute we put it together, we're going to be scary.' We picked a good day to do it."
Henning had two of Worthington's three hits on Tuesday, a day after the Trojans busted out offensively in a 15-11 win over JCC. Worthington has three conference games left, the first coming Thursday against Pipestone Area and the last two on Monday in a doubleheader against Redwood Valley.
Marshall's attention now turns to JCC. With a pair of wins Thursday, the Tigers could assure themselves at least a share of their third straight Southwest Conference crown.
"We want this more than anything else in the world right now," Fenske said. "We're looking forward to JCC and a big doubleheader Thursday. I can't wait."