The Owls snapped a nine-game losing streak against the three-time defending NCMC champions Tuesday with a 10-4 victory. However, MHS head coach Ian Verts rejected the notion that a win over the Pirates shook a monkey off his back.
"I don't know about monkey," he said. "We played well enough to win a ball game against a conference opponent, and that's what we wanted to do."
Still, the win removed some of the bitter taste of three losses to Boonville a year ago, including 11-1 in the Class 3, District 9 Tournament finals. The Owls hadn't defeated their next-door rival since the semifinal round of the 2006 districts, which they ended up winning for their lone playoff appearance, and it marked the program's first 3-0 start since 2001.
Marshall never trailed in the contest, scoring a run in the first inning on singles by seniors Collin Brennan, Jordan Pannell and Aaron Skinner. The Pirates tied it on senior Keith Poindexter's wind-aided homer over the left-field fence in the second.
However, Poindexter wasn't as fortunate on the mound. A muffed grounder and walk set up junior Henry Tietz for a double into the right-field gap which plated two runs in the bottom of the second.
The Owls got five more in the third, which started with a Pannell double. Two walks and a pair of hit batters later, which forced in two runs, were followed by Tietz' single to right for two tallies. Brennan's sacrifice fly extended Marshall's lead to 8-1.
After blanking Boonville in three of the first four frames, Pannell tired in the fifth inning -- three walks, a wild pitch and error letting two runs cross before senior Collin Porter came in to put out the fire. The left-hander didn't allow a hit over the final two stanzas, although the Pirates (2-2, 1-1 NCMC) got a run after freshman Austin Hulbert led off the seventh by drawing a walk.
"He did an outstanding job throwing strikes and forcing them to put the ball in play," Verts said about Porter's performance.
For the second time, the Owls answered a Boonville score with at least as many of their own with two runs in the fifth -- the result of a dropped fly ball, double by junior Zach Bishop and Skinner's second two-out RBI single of the game.
"Each inning we're trying to get a run to the plate," Verts noted. "We did what we expect to do: get a guy on base and score."
As sweet as was the win against a vaunted -- if short-handed -- opponent, Verts realizes that the Owls (3-0, 2-0) "still have a lot of work to do." After all, Marshall's quick start 10 years ago ended with a 7-7 campaign, and the program hasn't won an NCMC title since 1999 -- Verts' junior season.
"For us, it's about taking the right approach every day and focusing on what we can do," Verts said. "It's taking care of what we can take care of."