More important than the wins and losses is the experience gained by playing 31 games. The Travelers won 17 of 33 games last year, and that's not coincidental to the gradual improvement in the high school program -- culminating in the Owls' march to their first MSHSAA Class 3 Championships appearance in the spring.
"It's getting kids more opportunities to play baseball and be in baseball situations before we get into the high school varsity season," explained Marshall head coach Ian Verts. "It helps with our overall knowledge of the game."
The Travelers were short-handed for the finale, and the adjustments necessary showed on the defensive side -- committing a season-high seven errors for six unearned runs during an 11-10 loss in the opener.
Tyler Cott got Marshall on the scoreboard with a two-run homer in the top of the first inning, but the Pilot Grove Co-op squad got one of the those runs back in the bottom half of the frame. Sean Lorenz' single drove in a run following an error that allowed the Tigers' lead-off batter to reach base.
After a scoreless second, the Travelers picked up a pair of runs on Zach Bishop's blast in the third. Singles by Cott and Mason Paulus produced another run on a grounder.
Trailing 5-1, Pilot Grove rallied for six runs during its next turn. A walk, single by Trevor Day and an error allowed one run to cross before the first out was made. Grant Felton singled and the next batter was hit by a pitch.
After a fielder's choice resulted in the second out, Nate Beach's single and two more free passes gave the Tigers a 7-5 lead. Day singled, advanced to third on an error and Trenton Young's base hit and scored on a roller in the fourth.
Marshall began its comeback with Logan Harris' RBI single in the fifth and Bishop belted another two-run shot -- his team-high sixth homer of the season -- to tied the score in the sixth.
The Travelers regained the lead on Devin Cott's two-run single in the top of the seventh, but Jared Twenter led off Pilot Grove's last chance with a double. Two strikeouts later, he was still stuck on third base, but an error let him score.
Another defensive miscue put the go-ahead run on base and Day doubled both runners home for the walk-off win.
Marshall jumped out to an early lead in the nightcap, again thanks to a two-run homer by Tyler Cott -- his third -- but wound up eking out a 10-9 decision in the four-inning contest.
The Tigers had only one hit, an RBI single by Young, during a four-run first -- three straight walks forcing in runners -- before Caleb Willis relieved and put out the fire.
Three free passes in the second set up a pair of two-run hits for the Travelers -- a double by Bishop and Cott's single -- in the second.
Again, Pilot Grove regained the lead, with four runs during the bottom of the stanza. Day doubled in a run and scored on Felton's single. Two more crossed on a singly by Darrin Kammerich for an 8-6 lead.
However, Marshall got three runs without a hit in the third -- on four walks, a hit batter and an error -- and Willis retired the side in order during the Tigers' next at-bat.
Joe Damiano gave the Travelers an insurance run when he singled with one out and came in on a pitch that got away. Two walks led to a Pilot Grove run in the bottom of the inning, but Damiano gunned down a runner trying to steal third base and Willis fanned the next two batters to earn the victory.
Using a roster of underclassmen, Marshall (16-15) can look forward to contributions by young players during next spring's prep campaign -- who will have to fill spot vacated by five senior starters.
"A lot of those young guys are going to take on new roles," Verts said. "They've gotten a taste of the varsity level and see how the game is played at that level."