The Marshfield varsity baseball squad beat Monett 2-1 on Tuesday, May 7, in a showdown with the number one team of the Big 8 West to claim the top spot in the newly formatted 14-team conference. They went on to shut out Class 4 District 10 opponent Eldon 10-0 the following Monday to advance to the final round of their district tournament.
The conference championship game came down to just a handful of hits. In what Marshfield head coach William Pate dubbed a “pitcher’s duel,” both teams sat scoreless for the first four innings.
Finally, in the bottom of the fifth, Monett batters started making contact. Cubs senior Alex Rivera knocked one out of the field in the opening at-bat of the inning, drawing first blood in spectacular fashion.
“The one run they got, that home run, you kind of just tip your cap and move on,” assessed Pate.
Move on is exactly what Marshfield junior Austin Dobrick did at the mound, following the one-run homer with a strikeout. Though Dobrick gave up another big hit in the inning, strong fielding from the Jays closed out the inning before Monett could do any more damage.
What’s more, the team responded in the top of the sixth with a string of hits that put them back over the top. “I was really happy with the guys,” said Pate. “They could have gone two routes after that fifth inning: They could have laid down and been like, ‘Man we just gave up a home run, it’s a tight ballgame, there’s no way we’re going to score,’ or they could claw back into it and find a way to score some runs.”
The Marshfield boys chose the latter route.
Blue Jay junior Brooks Espy first revealed the cracks in Monett’s defensive armor with a single in the opening at-bat, and senior Truett Gardner followed up with a double to line up the two runs for the lead at third and second.
Junior Thomas McIllwain then cracked one to center field that was caught for the second out of the inning but got the RBI when Brooks Espy tagged up and made it home. It was Dobrick, then, who batted in Gardner for the go-ahead run that would ultimately take the game.
Both Pate and Gardner noted that the victory depended on their ability to overcome all-state senior and University of Arkansas signee Corey Spain at the mound.
“By the time we got around the lineup that third time, the guys had got their timing down, and [Spain] was kind of wearing down a little bit,” said Coach Pate. “So we just hit the ball and capitalized.”
“You can’t say enough about their pitcher — he was just shutting us down,” said Gardner. “But I think after we went through a couple times, we found a way to just open up on him.
Spain was replaced on the mound after Dobrick’s RBI double, which seemed a fitting end to the six-inning duel between the two pitchers. Dobrick then solidified the victory from the mound, getting six outs in the next six Monett at-bats to seal the 2-1 final and make the Jays the first champions of the new Big 8.
The Jays played one final regular season game in the runup to district play and endured a discouraging 2-5 loss against Class 5 Republic. After their scheduled district semi-final match on Saturday was rescheduled due to weather, the Jays found themselves making back-to-back trips to Salem at the start of the new week.
Monday’s semi against Eldon featured the Jays back in form for their first outing of the post-season, cranking out 10 runs and holding their opponent scoreless for a six-inning victory. Gardner held the mound in that bout and came close to a perfect game, giving up just three hits and a walk in the first three innings before shutting down the Eldon bats for the rest of the match. On the offensive end, Gardner also led the way, going two for three at-bats with three RBIs. Rounding out the score were twin brothers Brooks and Brennan Espy with two RBIs apiece, sophomore Ben Casterlin with two, and Mcillwain with one.
The Jays were slated to fight for the district championship on Tuesday night against 13-9 Salem, who held the home field advantage. The results of that championship match were not available at print-time of this issue, but will be explored in the upcoming edition of The Mail.