The senior southpaw allowed only three hits and one cheap run Tuesday to lead the top-seeded Owls to a 6-1 victory over No. 4 seed Eldon in the semifinal round of the Class 3, District 9 Tournament at Osage Beach. It was Porter's second complete game, the first being a 10-0, five-inning shutout of Carrollton last year -- but that was a mid-season non-conference contest, not one which kept his club's playoff hopes alive.
Marshall scored six unanswered runs to end the Mustangs' five-game win streak, overcoming some early jitters after not having played since beating NCMC champion Kirksville, 11-8, in the regular season finale the previous week.
"We'd been off for six days, so I was kind of interested in seeing how we were going to come out," remarked MHS head coach Ian Verts. "We were excited, and that played with our approach a little bit."
The first inning was an adventure for both teams. Eldon opened with a single by senior Matthew Kostelnik and a walk, with another free pass loading the bases with two outs before Porter caught senior Dustin Headrick looking at a called third strike.
When the Owls got their turn, senior Aaron Skinner was hit by a pitch and junior Zach Bishop singled. A one-out single by junior Henry Tietz was turned into a double play when sophomore shortstop Skylar Yakich gunned down Skinner at the plate on a relay throw from left field and senior catcher John Hall trapped sophomore courtesy runner Caleb Willis between second and third base.
Porter plunked Hall to begin the fourth inning. He was bunted to second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on senior Mason Ferris' grounder.
Marshall didn't trail for long. Senior Jordan Pannell led off the bottom of the fourth by drawing a walk and Tietz drilled a 2-2 pitch 345 feet over the fence in right-center field for his second homer of the season.
"We were looking for a spark," Verts said. "Those are things [Tietz] is capable of doing. When he puts good swings on baseballs, good things happen."
Sophomore Tyler Cott doubled and senior Collin Brennan tripled to tack on another run.
Pannell singled, stole second and eventually scored on Brennan's sacrifice fly in the fifth and, after a pair of free passes, Bishop tripled in both runners in the sixth.
Meanwhile, after giving up his lone run, Porter didn't surrender another hit to the Mustangs (12-12) until Farris led off the seventh with a single -- but was quickly wiped by a double play turned by Tietz at short. A wild-pitch on a third strike put a runner on base, but Porter (4-2) hauled in a high pop-up to end the game.
"It was a tight [strike] zone the entire night. He had to throw strikes," Verts said. "He did a good job of forcing them to put the ball in play and we played solid defense behind him."
The win put the Owls into today's final against second seed Boonville, a 7-4 winner over California. The Pirates have never lost three games in a season to a league foe in their four years of NCMC membership, although have swept three of the five teams they have played thrice, but Marshall (14-10) will attempt that most difficult feat.
The Owls are trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006, having lost to Boonville in the district finals a year ago, 11-1 in six innings. Verts believes that experience will benefit his club this time around.
"This is the game we've wanted to be in since the beginning of the season," he declared. "The boys are extremely excited to be here again and they want to right what they did wrong last year."