Dropping its first game of the tournament to the Midland Redskins, the MGF Marshalls have been all business since. In the three games after the defeat, MGF has surrendered only a single run, including a 5-0 victory over the Ohio Warhawks to set up a rematch with Midland in the 2019 Pathway Games Omaha championship game.
“I was really proud of the way the boys showed up,” said head coach Sam Swenson. “From the first inning on, whether it was competing with two strikes to putting balls in play to competing on the mound and executing pitches, the guys were in it from the very beginning.
“We have a long history with the Warhawks. Anytime we show up on the same field, we know it’s going to be a good fight.”
After a quiet top half of the first inning, starting pitcher Bryce Robison went to work for MGF. Robison didn’t have everything going at first but still managed to retire the initial 10 batters he faced.
“I had a hard time finding my curveball early,” explained Robison. “Later in the game, I was able to find a secondary pitch and that really helped me be able to get ahead and get early outs with ground balls.”
With both pitchers looking steady on the mound, the game seemed destined for a seven-inning pitcher’s duel.
In stepped Miguel Ortiz.
Leading off the second inning, Ortiz launched a home run to left field, giving the Marshalls a much-needed early advantage.
“It was a curveball down and in,” Ortiz said. “First at-bat, I thought he would be throwing me fastballs but right away he threw me two curveballs right down the middle.
“I was confused for a second but I fouled off the next curveball and I knew what he was coming with after. It was a bit low but I still got to it.”
In two days of Pathway baseball at Werner Park, Ortiz’s solo shot stands as the only home run.
“For us to jump out there with a bomb kind of helped,” Swenson said. “It put pressure on them to make it up. It’s usually how it goes. Whoever can score first, usually has a good chance.”
An inning later, the Marshall’s continued to put its foot on the gas as TJ Clarkson tallied a two-RBI double to put MGF up 3-0.
The Warhawks looked almost certain to score in the bottom of the third inning with runners on first and third with one out. MGF flexed its defensive prowess, though, calling a brilliant pick play to end the threat and walk out of the inning unscathed.
“I knew they were going to run,” Swenson said. “We tried to set them up because Robison has a really good pick. The defense did exactly as they had been taught.
“That play right there changed the game. Any hope that they had of trying to battle back into the game got shut down right there.”
The Marshalls tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning on a throwing error from the Warhawk’s catcher, scoring Nick Vogt and J.J. Cruz to make it 5-0. With two innings to play, the game now rested on the shoulders of Robison.
As Robison’s secondary pitch took shape in the latter half of the ballgame, so did his efficiency. The BYU commit allowed just one baserunner from the fourth inning on, completing seven full shutout innings and sending the MGF Marshalls to the championship contest.
“I approached every hitter the same, especially the Warhawks,” Robison said. “They are a really good team with great coaches. I just try to block out the hitter and try to hit my spots.”
Midland got the best of MGF to begin the Pathway Games Omaha but three consecutive victories later, the Marshalls are a more confident team heading into Thursday’s championship rematch.
“I just feel like we have to play as a team, put the ball in play and hit everything hard,” said Ortiz.