Wild inning propels Vinton-Shellsburg to substate final

Six Marion errors leads to six Vikings runs in decisive fifth

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VAN HORNE — Marion appeared to be coasting to a substate date and an extended season.

Unexpectedly, the wheels came off, or maybe Vinton-Shellsburg ran the Indians off the postseason path.

The Vikings scored six runs in the fifth inning en route to a 9-2 victory over Marion in the Class 3A District 7 final Monday night at Benton Community’s Manship Field.

“We wanted to put ourselves in a position to be competitive and have a chance to go to Des Moines,” Vinton-Shellsburg Coach Jim Struve said. “We do a lot of situational stuff in practice and that was evident.

“We put a lot of balls in play. We didn’t strike out too much and put pressure on them. I’m really proud of our kids’ effort and mind-set.”

The Vikings (25-16) trailed 2-0 and had managed little offense, advancing just one runner to second base through the first four innings. When they were presented with a few gifts from the Indians’ defense, they opened the floodgates.

Jared Thompson opened with a hopper up the middle for an infield single and then advanced to second on an errant throw to first. Tanner Davis reached on an error on the next at-bat.

After Tyler Rasmussen moved both runners on a sacrifice, Conner Miracle delivered an RBI single up the middle to get the Vikings on the board.

“I came in looking to put the ball in play there,” Miracle said. “I put a swing on it and let things happen.”

Then things turned ugly. Miracle stole second. The throw sailed into center, allowing Davis to score. Miracle advanced and raced home on an overthrow to third from the outfield, giving Vinton-Shellsburg a 3-2 edge.

Three more throwing errors led to two more runs before Wes Edwards drove in Nathan Struve with a double.

The miscues were reminiscent of the Indians defense early in the season, but not of the improved version in the second half.

“It was a shame because I thought Mitch (Wiese) threw a nice game,” Marion Coach Steve Fish said. “We started to throw the ball around and that is going to haunt me for a while because I’m a coach that likes to put salt and pepper on it, but we had some guys wanting to throw the ball around a little bit.

“For a team that likes to be aggressive, they smell that and they are going to keep making us throw it around, so you have to tip your hat to them a little bit.”

Another error led to a run in the sixth. Davis reached on an error to lead off and then scored on Miracle’s bunt, making it 7-2. Scott Wirth added a two-run double in the seventh.

Nathan Struve tossed a complete game, shutting down the Indians after the second. He closed with five hitless innings, sitting down 17 of the last 20 batters he faced.

He knew he had to change something on the mound and then things clicked during a five-pitch, 1-2-3 inning in the third.

“I was overthrowing the first two innings, trying to take the game myself,” Nathan Struve said. “I slowed my velocity down and let the fielders win the game for me. That is when I started doing better.”

Vinton-Shellsburg advances to the Substate 4 final against DeWitt Central. The Sabers knocked off top-ranked Davenport Assumption, 1-0. The Vikings are a win away from a second straight trip to the state tournament.

The Sabers (31-11) swept the Vikings in a doubleheader in June.

“We have to keep grinding,” Miracle said. “We know that win is going to be a tough one. We can’t take it lightly. We have to go to practice, put the work in and go out and get it.”

Wiese allowed just five hits through 5 2/3 innings, retiring 10 batters at one point.

The Indians took an early advantage thanks to lead off doubles from Maverick Miller in the first and Baylor Fish in the second. Miller scored on Logan Charipar’s bases-loaded walk and Baylor Fish scored on a throwing error.

Marion finished 25-16 and the loss doesn’t put a damper on the progress the team made during the season.

“There are a ton of positives,” said Fish, noting Marion will miss the two seniors on the current roster. “We have a lot of juniors and underclassmen that got a lot of good experience. I think mostly on the mental side than the physical side from this atmosphere.

“You have to learn from it. It stings right now. We have some hurting kids.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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