Hurlers rule inaugural Marceline-Brookfield prep baseball clash

Tigers’ Molloy fans 14, Bulldogs’ Collier 13 as MHS prevails 2-0 last Friday

By PAUL STURM, LCL Sports Editor

By PAUL STURM, LCL Sports Editor

BROOKFIELD — Things were almost as perfect as one could have choreographed when the first-ever officially-sanctioned baseball game between teams from Brookfield and Marceline high schools took place last Friday, April 30. Perhaps the only thing – well, okay, a little more hitting and offensive action would have been nice – which might have been better would have been if there had been a way for neither team to lose.

That wasn’t possible, however, but, even with the Rusk Park Field scoreboard giving mute witness to a moundsmen-dominated 2-0 Marceline triumph, its doubtful fans of either side went away feeling anything but positive about the historic occasion.

Rained out a couple of weeks earlier, the reset tilt took place in picture-perfect weather – warm, but not hot, with dry field conditions and no wind to speak of to influence the play.

While pitting two teams – the second-year Tigers of Marceline and first-year Brookfield Bulldogs – with understandably below-.500 records, the contest produced spirited, balanced action which, aside from the dominance of the two pitchers, belied the programs’ youth.

The first-ever diamond duel would have taken place a year ago when Brookfield was set to unveil its program a year after Marceline initiated the sport among its offerings, but the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering of 2020 spring sports in Missouri precluded that.

So, after a year and a couple of weeks’ delay, the black-and-gold Tigers visited the blue-and-white Bulldogs for a contest which, as expected, drew a sizable contingent of supporters of each school.

What those fans saw was some generally-solid and, on one occasion, exceptional defensive play behind a pair of junior righthanded pitchers who, by and large, knocked the bats out of opposing batters’ hands.

The game’s tone was set immediately when BHS’ Bryson Collier struck out MHS leadoff batter Jaxon Schmitt. It never really wavered.

Collier fanned two or three Tigers in five of the seven innings and had at least one in each frame except the fifth, when MHS plated the second of its two runs.

However, he was surpassed by Tiger Wyatt Molloy, who whiffed at least two ’Dogs in every inning except the fifth on his way to blanking BHS on three hits.

All told, Molloy, who struck out the side in the second inning and got eight of the first nine outs on “Ks,” fanned 14 Brookfield batters en route to the whitewash.

He came within one out of firing a 1-hitter, but, down by two, Brookfield (2-10) injected some last-minute intrigue into the proceedings.

With two outs and none aboard in its last at-bat, BHS got a pair of looping singles to right field from freshman second baseman Hank Parks and sophomore left fielder Layne Schreiner to put the potential tying runs on base.

That brought No. 8 batter Gabe Norman to bat representing the potential winning run in what would have been a memorable, storybook ending for the home team. However, while putting the ball in play against Molloy for a second-straight at-bat, Norman’s grounder up the middle was fielded by second baseman Tanner Sayre. His short toss to shortstop Hunter Quinn at the second-base bag forced out Schreiner and ended the tight game to a well-deserved round of applause from all on hand.

Prior to the seventh, the only hit Brookfield had managed off the Tigers’ pitcher had come from sophomore center field Gambal Staddie leading off the fourth inning. He broke up Molloy’s potential no-hitter with a clean single to center field.

He never budged off first base as the MHS hurler retired the next three Bulldogs, but that was due only to the game’s top defensive play.

With the leadoff man on and none out, Collier lifted a pop fly down the right field line. While right fielder Canaan Wright charged in and to his left and first baseman Calvin Cathey retreated in pursuit, neither had time to get there for a catch of the ball which seemed likely to land with a foot of either side of the line.

However, second sacker Sayre – a rarity in that he plays an infield position other than first base, even though a left-handed thrower – dashed about 60-plus feet across from his position and, on the backhand, speared the ball about head high for the out perhaps 130 feet from home plate. As he did so, the home plate umpire indicated that the play had been made on the fair side of the line, meaning, had the ball fallen in, Brookfield likely would have had consecutive hits (Wright might have had a chance to pick the ball up and throw to second for a force play as Staddie had to remain fairly close to first) and runners at first and second with no outs in what then was a 1-0 game.

While Marceline itself generally struggled to make fair-ball contact against Collier, it did group enough such occasions to get two runs on the board.

The first time came in the top of the second inning.

Leading off, Quinn laced a shot to left-center field that carried well beyond the reach of the BHS outfielders and rolled to the fence for a sliding triple.

However, a pair of strikeouts had him still tied down to third with two away when the lefty-swinging Sayre, No. 8 man in the MHS batting order, made solid contact with a pitch and lashed it the opposite way. It had just enough carry to get over the left fielder’s head, resulting in not only a double, but the game’s first run-scoring hit.

As the game moved into its latter innings, it appeared Quinn’s run might be the only one the contest produced. However, a brief wobble by Collier helped Marceline add on.

Opening the top of the fifth, Sayre again took the Brookfield righty’s first delivery the other way, dunking a soft single over the head of retreating shortstop Colton Parn.

He moved up 90 feet when Collier plunked No. 9 batter Drake Stufflebean with the next pitch, making it the first occasion in the contest that either side had two men aboard simultaneously.

Four pitches later, they were joined by a third as Jaxon Schmitt watched four servings miss the strike zone. After only six pitches, Collier found himself in a sacks-jammed spot that threatened to blow the game open.

He responded, however, although he could not prevent Marceline from doubling its lead in the process.

Facing Cathey, the Brookfield pitcher induced a fly ball to medium center field, plenty far for Sayre to tag up and score on after the catch, which he did.

However, as the Tigers were tacking on a second run, their baserunner at second had misjudged how close the center fielder would be getting to second base by the time he made the catch moving in. Heeding shouts from his middle infielders near the base, Staddie fired a strike there after gloving the fly ball and, on a bang-bang play, BHS got the call for a double-up out.

A routine fly ball to right field then ended the potential big inning with only one run for Marceline (4-7), but Molloy made the 2-runs margin it gave him enough.

Statistically, Molloy and Collier filled up the strike zone all day. Not only did they combine for the 27 strikeouts (out of 42 total outs), but they walked merely two and Collier had the one plunking.

Marceline’s five hits included the pair by Sayre, Quinn’s 3-bagger, and singles from Nathan Cupp in the first and Molloy in the fourth.

As previously cited, Staddie, Parks and Schreiner had Brookfield’s hits. Schreiner and Cupp were the only players who managed to avoid being strikeout victims in the game, each in three plate appearances.

Moving on into May, Brookfield was due to have hosted Glasgow Monday before traveling to Salisbury for a game tomorrow at 5 p.m.

Marceline had a Lewis and Clark Conference home game on tap yesterday against Knox County and a non-league home contest against Green City tomorrow at 5. On Friday, the Tigers are scheduled to wrap up their regular season by participating in a tournament at Palmyra.