After 14 years of being denied a district title, the six-inning, 10-0 victory over Salem for the Class 4 District 10 championship on Tuesday, May 14, felt like something of an anti-climax for the Blue Jays baseball squad. In fact, combined with the previous day’s semifinal against Eldon, the Marshfield boys shut out the entire tournament in a clean dozen innings with a total of 20 runs.
While the two games may have lacked drama, that hardly diminished the excitement on the Marshfield bench and bleachers in Salem on Tuesday. Indeed, the one-sidedness of the match simply served as a testament to the solidity of the Jay’s lineup.
The boys in blue (though actually in camo for this outing) took control early in the contest, putting up half of their eventual 10 runs in the first frame.
Junior Brooks Espy, at the top of the lineup, got things started with a right-field line drive that put him on first. A walk for senior Parker Dinwiddie in the next at-bat set the stage for junior Thomas McIllwain to drive in both to put the first two runs on the board. A single by junior Austin Dobrick in the next at-bat moved McIllwain across the plate, and a center field line drive by junior Brennan Espy scored Dobrick in turn while also positioning Espy as an imminent threat at third. Sophomore Ben Casterlin, batting from the eight slot, was the one to move him in for the final run of the inning.
“We just strung together some hits,” Marshfield head coach William Pate assessed. “Got started right out of the gate and made things happen — it was awesome.”
Solidifying the Jays’ early-game dominance was Dobrick’s performance in the circle. The junior spent his first two innings collecting strikeouts. Only six batters made it to the plate in that time, and each represented another K on Dobrick’s stat line.
“‘Dobie did a phenomenal job,” said Pate. “He did exactly what we wanted him to do, and that’s what he’s done all year.”
The Jays extended their lead in the second when McIllwain drove a double into right field that moved in two and combined to give the junior four RBIs in his first two at-bats.
The following three innings were quiet for both sides. Defensively, the Marshfield fielders had little work to do as Dobrick flirted with a perfect game. When Salem finally did get a man on base with an infield single, though, the Jays used it their advantage, clocking a double play in the next at-bat with pitch-perfect efficiency from third baseman Jackson Vestal (who scooped the grounder heading toward him), second baseman Mcillwain and first baseman Gardner.
Offensively, the Marshfield bats fell into a slumber. The Jays collected three base hits and based on balls a few more times in the third through fifth innings, but weren’t able to capitalize on any of it in that time.
After the game, Coach Pate noted that there is a risk to putting up such a strong lead so early. “Guys can start to check out, can get just a little lackadaisical sometimes, and it’s really important to stay mentally sharp and focused,” said Pate. “Our message was just, ‘Hey, it’s not over — keep putting them up until we say stop.’”
The Jays took that message to heart in the bottom of the sixth inning. Coming in at the top of their lineup and standing three runs away from a mercy-rule victory, Marshfield batters made good on the opportunity to set their hands on the district trophy more quickly.
Gardner batted in the first run of the inning, banking Brooks Espy from third base with a soaring fly ball that gave the junior plenty of time to tag up and stroll in. Dinwiddie got the second run by making his own opportunities. The senior, having advanced to second on a walk, stole third and then made his way across the plate on a passed ball, putting the Jays within one of victory.
The honor of the winning at-bat went to sophomore Jackson Vestal, who drove in McIllwain from third for the walk-off run and was swarmed at first base by an ecstatic Jays’ bench.
In addition to being a long-awaited achievement for Marshfield baseball, it was a generous day for stat-lines across the Jays’ lineup. At the plate, McIllwain led the way, going two for three and notching four RBIs. Dobrick and Vestal also notched two hits on the day, while Dobrick, Vestal, Gardner, Casterlin and Brennan Espy each batted in a runner.
At the mound, Dobrick collected 10 strikeouts and allowed only three hits across the six innings of play.
All-District honors went to Gardner, Dinwiddie, Dobrick, McIllwain and Brooks Espy.
The real challenge set in after the game, when the Jays had to work to keep their momentum alive for a full week until the state sectional game against Helias Catholic in Jefferson City.
“There are things I want to work on and lock down, but most importantly, just being ready to compete,” said Coach Pate of the the time between games. “I told them that the district championship was our ending goal from day one, but let’s not stop here. Let’s not settle.”
The results of that Tuesday night scheduled sectional match against the 23-4 Crusaders were not available at the time of this issue’s deadline but will be discussed in the next edition of The Mail.
Mail photos by Dane Lale
The Marshfield varsity baseball team holds up the Class 4 District 10 trophy after beating Salem on Tuesday, May 14. It is the program’s first district title since the 2005 season.
Junior Thomas McIllwain gets the first out at second and hurls to first during a fourth-inning double play in the district championship game.
Junior Austin Dobrick lets fly from the mound. Dobrick pitched a stellar game on Tuesday, accumulating 10 strikeouts in a six-inning day.