MARSHALL - Trailing 4-1 and entering the bottom of the third on Thursday, Marshall VFW Blue broke through for 13 consecutive runs over the next three innings and wrapped their District 3 playoff game with Tracy up early via a 14-4 victory in five innings.
The comeback, highlighted by a seven-run fifth inning featuring four bases-loaded walks, was not a surprise to Blue head coach Chace Pollock, who said that his team has played enough baseball this summer to find itself in just about every scenario possible.
"We talked after the ball game, we've played enough games to see it all," Pollock said. "We do that with a purpose, we play ball games so that we're never surprised come playoff time. That's a prime example right there.
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall Blue batter Drew Hmielewski takes a swing during Thursday’s District 3 VFW playoff game against Tracy at Legion Field.
"We've been down early in ballgames and came back. We came back the same way we did today. Nothing surprises us now and there are no surprises come playoff time."
Another factor in Marshall's comeback was the pitching of Dylan Criquet-Danielson. After allowing five hits over the first two innings, Criquet-Danielson settled into a groove over the final three innings and faced just one batter over the minimum. Four of his five strikeouts came from the third inning on as well.
Tracy got its first run against Criquet-Danielson following a one-out walk by Tanner Phelps and a double blistered to the left-center gap by Gavin Van Moer. Phelps beat the throw home, but Van Moer was thrown out trying to advance to third on the throw to the plate.
Tracy130 00-4 5 1
Blue103 37-14 8 1
T-Austin Gleis, Derek Larson (4), Tanner Phelps (5); B-Dylan Criquet-Danielson. WP-Criquet-Danielson. LP-Gleis. 3B: B-Connor Winkelman, Noah Winkelman. 2B: T-Gavin VanMoer; B-N. Winkelman. SB: T-Gleis; B-Nate Hoeft 2. LOB: T-3; B-9.
Marshall tied the game in the bottom half of the inning when Nate Hoeft scored one of his three runs of the game on a Drew Hmielewski infield single, but Tracy responded its next time at the plate.
In the second inning, Tracy used three hits, including RBI singles from Derek Larson and Austin Gleis, to put three runs on the board. They were the last runs of the game for Tracy, with Criquet-Danielson going into lock-down mode following Gleis' single.
"We got good at-bats and battled. If we can get guys on base, we can play our style of game," Tracy head coach Travis Apperson said. "We've got good athletes, we can run a little bit and that's what we seemed to do at the beginning of the game. Towards the end, give credit to their pitcher. He kept us off balance with some good pitches and I think that was the difference."
Gleis, who started on the hill for Tracy, began the game in the same style as Criquet-Danielson ended it. For most of three innings the Marshall batters seemed hoodwinked by Gleis' sidearm delivery, but found a comfort zone the second time through the order at the same time as Gleis' command wavered.
"The first couple innings we saw a lot of pitches and made (Gleis) work a little bit," Pollock said. "He's got good stuff, no doubt about it. If we just keep grinding out at-bats like we need and make him throw a little bit, eventually the kid's going to wear down."
With one out in the third, Gleis issued consecutive free passes to Hoeft and Hmielewski before Blue could tie the game with two swings of the bat. Noah Winkelman doubled home the first two runs, while catcher Jack Bock knocked Winkelman in with a single.
Blue added three more runs off of Gleis in the fourth, as Noah and Connor Winkelman each legged out triples and Bock produced another RBI single.
For the game, Bock finished 3-for-3 with a run scored and three RBIs. Noah Winkelman was 2-for-3 with three runs, three RBIs, a double and a triple, and Hoeft scored three times despite one official at-bat (two walks and a hit-by-pitch).
In total, Marshall collected eight hits, but also drew 10 walks while every spot in the lineup managed to score a run or drive one in.
"Everybody in our lineup, I thought, did a very nice job for us. Come playoff time, that's nice to see," Pollock said.
Derek Larson relieved Gleis for the final out of the fourth, but recorded just one out in the fifth inning. After inducing a ground ball to the first batter of the inning, Larson walked four of the next five batters and hit another one with a pitch. An RBI single followed and Larson's fifth walk of the inning ended his night. Tanner Phelps walked the first batter he faced, but gave up a run on a fielder's choice, while Derek Rasmussen ended the game with an RBI single.
"We've been preaching the whole year that we've got to throw strikes," Apperson said. "You're not going to get anybody out walking them. We just have to throw strikes.
"Marshall is obviously a good hitting team, so pitching-wise you're going to see people trying to nibble a little more," he added. "Good hitting from Marshall kept our pitchers away from the zone quite a bit."
With the win Marshall moves on to face Olivia at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Marshall, while Tracy is one loss away from elimination and plays Tyler at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Legion Field as well.