Mustangs fall in wild regional title baseball game

Marion ousted in extras by Iola-Scandinavia
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Marion High School baseball team was eliminated from the playoffs after a wild 12-10 loss in eight innings to Iola-Scandinavia in a Division 4 regional title game on May 31 in Marion.

The Mustangs weren’t able to capitalize on a few golden opportunities, made some uncharacteristic mistakes and had some mental lapses that kept them from prevailing.

“I think we got in our heads a little too much, to the point where we couldn’t get back out of it,” said Marion’s Jaden Stuhr. “And then just some errors, not necessarily on the field in the last innings, but mentally with what to throw, what not to throw and fielding the ball. I’m not sure, I don’t even know what to say.”

“The difference was our morale,” said Jay Brei. “We had guys that let the bad calls affect them and it got to their head and it ended up probably costing us the game…”

Top-seeded Marion had hoped to run ace pitcher Stuhr out on the mound for the contest, but weren’t able to after needing to use him for six innings the previous day in a comeback win over eighth-seeded Green Bay NEW Lutheran/Providence. Instead, the Mustangs turned to Ryan Malueg.

Fifth-seeded Iola-Scandinavia got a run in the first off Malueg, but the junior righty settled in after that. Marion looked like it might provide the early run support for Malueg that the team had hoped to do for Stuhr the day prior after loading the bases with one down in the first, but a 5-2-3 double play ended the scoring threat.

Marion grabbed the lead in the third after scoring twice. Nick Malueg walked and Ryan Malueg doubled to open the frame. Stuhr plated Nick Malueg on a groundout, and then Jay Brei singled home Ryan Malueg.

Just when it looked like the Mustangs had settled in, Iola-Scandinavia had a big answer in the fourth, scoring five times. The first seven batters of the inning reached, forcing the hosts to swap their battery — with catcher Brei coming in to pitch and Ryan Malueg moving behind the plate.

An error allowed the visiting Thunderbirds to score another run in the fifth, making it 7-2.

Marion got back within three runs after scoring twice in the fifth. Nick Malueg scored the first run on an error before Stuhr scored on a groundout from Brei.

Iola-Scandinavia scored three more runs in the sixth to take a comfortable 10-4 lead, but Marion continued to fight, scoring three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. Brandon Peterson, Braxton Genskow and Nick Malueg scored on a triple from Stuhr.

Nick Malueg replaced Brei on the mound in the seventh, with Brei moving back to catcher after Ryan Malueg was ejected from the contest. Nick Malueg stranded a runner at third to post a scoreless frame and keep the momentum on the host’s side.

One-out walks from Jackson Krohn and Peterson and a two-out walk from Genskow loaded the bases for the hosts in the bottom of the seventh. Krohn scored on a wild pitch, after which the Thunderbirds decided to intentionally walk Nick Malueg to re-load the bases and bring up Izan Bueno, who replaced Ryan Malueg.

Bueno came through with a two-strike single to right field, scoring Peterson and Genskow to tie the game.

Iola-Scandinavia took the bat out of Stuhr’s hands with another intentional walk, which loaded the bases again and brought Brei to the plate. Brei took three straight balls to open the at-bat before taking a strike. After another strike was called, Nick Malueg was caught in a rundown between third and home and eventually tagged out to send the game to extras.

“I think he thought it was ball four, and he was the winning run, so he just got a little anxious and excited I think,” said Marion coach Joe Stuhr.

To make matters worse for the Mustangs, Iola-Scandinavia opened the eighth with an inside-the-park homer on a line drive to right. The visitors tacked on another run later in the frame and then turned a double play in the bottom of the inning to end the wild back-and-forth battle.

It was a tough way for the season to end for Marion, which was simply dominant all spring. Marion, which ended the year ranked fourth in the state, finished 18-2 overall and won the Central Wisconsin Conference-North Division with a 10-0 record, outscoring opponents 141-21 in those 10 contests.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Jaden Stuhr. “It meant a lot, especially since all of us have been playing together since Little League and this was the last time we’d all be playing together. The success, we were all just one, that’s what brought the success to our team. Fell a little bit short of what we expected but it happens.”

In Marion’s 8-7 win over Green Bay NEW Lutheran/Providence on May 30, the Mustangs scored first, but trailed 6-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. The Mustangs scored three times in the fifth and four times in the sixth to pull ahead, and then limited the visitors to one run in the seventh to fend off the upset chance.

Stuhr earned the win after working six innings. He struck out 13 batters, and only two of the runs he allowed were earned.

Ryan Malueg got the final three outs — with the run against him also being unearned — to get the save.

Genskow and Nick Malueg each scored twice for Marion, while Peterson posted two hits.