Baseball: Slow-starting Marquette attack catches up to WFC

11 runs combined in 3rd, 4th innings lead Crusaders over Warriors

Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell's Tucker Hill throws out Marquette's Charlie Mullen at first on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at Masinelli Field in Ottawa.

OTTAWA – Once a rock starts rolling down a hill, it’s pretty hard to stop.

The Marquette Crusaders scratched out a couple of second-inning runs against Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell starting pitcher Tucker Hill at Masinelli Field on Wednesday afternoon, but that was enough to get the remainder of a 13-0 Tri-County Conference victory leaning the home team’s way.

Four straight hits from the top of the order leading off the second inning plated four more runs, followed by a seven-run fourth that helped lift the Crusaders’ win total to six this season in as many games.

The outburst made a winner of Marquette starter Carson Zellers, who wasn’t as spot on as he has been in recent outings but still sharp enough with just two hits and one walk allowed over four scoreless innings. Anthony Couch closed it out by striking out the side in the fifth around a walk.

For the Warriors (0-3), the rust of no game action for over a week showed. Hill gave up five runs and seven hits in his three innings and was let down by a pair of errors in that second inning.

“It’s just nice to be back on the field today. The weather sucked, but it sucked for everybody today, and we just have to get through it.”

—  Todd Hopkins, Marquette baseball coach

“It’s just nice to be back on the field today. The weather [stank], but it [stank] for everybody today, and we just have to get through it,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “It affected us. You saw how impatient we were in the first couple of innings at the plate, but our pitchers have been working, and both threw well today. That’s good to see. … Defensively, on balls hit to us, we made plays.

“But there are still some Baseball 101 things we’re going to have to get better at. We have a lot of maturing and growing up to do from a baseball aspect. Hopefully that will come, because it’s going to get real here in the next week.”

Marquette pitcher Anthony Couch lets go of a pitch to Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at Masinelli Field in Ottawa.

The Cru, who take on Dwight at home Tuesday and on the road Thursday around a Wednesday road game at Joliet Catholic, saw Zellers give up a leadoff double to deep center field in the first inning to Dylan Jenkins. The right-hander stranded him, as he did to the two runners on against him in the third after a walk to Reece Pelnarsh, a fielder’s choice and a single by Eric Miramontes.

By then the hosts had given him an edge, starting in the second with a two-out double by Couch. Payton Gutierrez singled him in and later scored himself when, on a steal, the throw went into center field and the third baseman was called for obstruction.

In the third, an Alec Novotney double and a Zellers single preceded a two-run knock by Sam Mitre. After a single by Keaton Davis, Mitre came in on a groundout by Griffin Dobberstein and Davis on a Couch single.

But the clincher was the fourth. Gutierrez was hit by a pitch, Grant Dose walked, and Novotney singled to load the bases for Zellers, who stroked a two-run hit to right-center. After Hill hit Mitre with a pitch, Connor Dodge came on in relief and fared no better, permitting a two-RBI single to Davis and a two-run double to Dobberstein.

The latter scored on a two-out infield fly that dropped for WFC’s fourth error of the game.

“One good thing is that we’re swinging the bat,” WFC coach Dan Essman said. “We’re not always making contact, but we’re aggressive. We have to do a better job of reading the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. That’s where we struggle, reading the ball, knowing the pitch count and knowing what’s coming up. That will come the more we play.

“We have to clean it up on the field a little bit, too. Tucker does well, but the defense has to help him out a bit. At times it does, at times it doesn’t. We’ll get there. We have two winnable games [coming up] against Ridgeview, and hopefully we’ll come out with a little fire.”