Marsh Valley explodes for 19 runs in opening-round win at state
IDAHO FALLS — Andrew Anderson didn’t hesitate to swing at the first fastball he saw.
In turn, his coach didn’t think twice about waving Anderson home.
Anderson’s leadoff inside-the-park home run kicked off Marsh Valley’s offensive onslaught that ended with a 19-8, five-inning win over Timberlake in the first round of the 3A state tournament Thursday at Melaleuca Field.
Anderson sent the first pitch he saw into the left-center field power alley, where it eventually rolled to the wall. Eagles coach Kent Howell sent his flyer around third, and Anderson slid head first into home to get four bases the hard way.
Anderson said he knew Timberlake starting pitcher Jack McDonald might have a good curveball. So he was looking for an early-count heater the whole way.
“Stepped into the first good pitch and took it where it needed to be,” the sophomore said.
Anderson’s homer was one of many offensive highlights for Marsh Valley (16-5), which advances to Friday’s semifinals against South Fremont. The Eagles led 19-0 through four innings and got multi-hit games from four players.
Anderson finished 2 for 3, adding a two-RBI triple to his line in the fourth. Tanner Branson, Brock Bennett, Bronx Holbrook and Riley Lloyd each added two RBIs.
The gaudy offensive numbers are nothing new for Marsh Valley. The Eagles have scored at least 10 runs seven games in a row, 17 times this season and in all 16 of their wins. They entered Thursday averaging a 3A-best 12.0 runs per game.
But runs weren’t a given versus McDonald. According to the team’s stats on MaxPreps, the junior left-hander entered the game with a 1.02 ERA this season and hadn’t allowed an earned run since April 19.
Plus, Marsh Valley faced McDonald in last year’s state tournament opener. The Eagles eked out a 3-0 win on four hits.
Anderson said extensive film sessions on McDonald helped Marsh Valley prepare.
PHOTOS: Timberlake-Marsh Valley baseball
“We were nervous to face McDonald. He’s a really good pitcher,” Howell said. “We worked hard to prepare and the boys came ready to hit.”
Marsh Valley was patient against McDonald and made him pay for leaving a pitch in the strike zone. The Eagles drew seven walks from McDonald, struck out two times and scored six runs via hits with two strikes in the count.
“Their approach was really good at the plate and that was the difference,” Howell said. “They had good discipline. They were swinging at strikes.”
On the mound, Holbrook cashed in on his cushion — not that he needed it. The senior right-hander struck out three, gave up two hits and walked none in four shutout innings.
Timberlake’s only runner in scoring position against Holbrook was McDonald, who singled to lead off the game. He reached third before Holbrook struck out Jacob James to retire the side.
Holbrook ended his outing with 53 pitches, meaning he can pitch again in two days.
“My approach is just throw hard, hit spots,” Holbrook said. “I knew my team could field it, get it in if they hit it. I just had to throw for strikes and it worked out just fine.”
Holbrook only faced two three-ball counts. Both ended in outs. He threw 34 of his 53 pitches (64.2%) for strikes.
“Every time he had a chance of possibly starting to struggle, he threw a strike,” Howell said.
Timberlake (16-9-1) is sent to the consolation bracket and plays Homedale on Friday. The White Tigers scored eight runs in the fifth inning to avoid being shut out. Alex Drake singled twice in the frame, Gage Benefield added a two-RBI single and Kobe Harris unloaded the bases with a single-turned-inside-the-park-grand slam thanks to an error — one of three the Eagles committed that inning.
Howell wasn’t particularly concerned with his team’s sloppy fifth frame, saying it may act as a good reminder that a baseball game can turn with a snap.
“We know that the next game is going to be harder,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to stay focused. Coach keeps saying, ‘Come tomorrow different than you were today.’ So dial in, get more focused, ready to take on our next opponent.”
Marsh Valley plays South Fremont (22-5) at 4 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals. The Cougars beat Homedale 3-1 on Thursday in the opening round. Marsh Valley and South Fremont faced off March 19 at Marsh Valley, a 14-13 South Fremont win.
MARSH VALLEY 19, TIMBERLAKE 8 (5)
Timberlake 000 08x x — 8 7 4
Marsh Valley 524 8xx x — 19 13 3
Timberlake — LP: McDonald.
Marsh Valley — WP: Holbrook. 3B: Anderson, Holbrook. HR: Anderson.