MARION — A little bit of long ball, a little bit of small ball, and Marion High School has its winningest baseball team.
Mitch Wiese hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, and the fifth-ranked Indians manufactured a pair of go-ahead runs in the fourth to topple Cedar Rapids Xavier, 4-2, Monday night in a Class 3A district final before an estimated 500 fans.
That’s an even 30 victories for Marion (30-10), which plays a substate final Wednesday night at Solon (26-13).
“Like I told them, that has not been our goal,” said Marion Coach Steve Fish. “We’ve got other goals in mind. But I’ve had some teams get to 29 wins, so to get to 30, that says a lot about this team.”
“Now it’s all about adding on to,” Wiese said. “Hopefully we can get that title with it.”
The big first baseman lofted an 0-2 curveball from Xavier starting pitcher Ryan Hosch over the fence in left field to put his club on top early. Xavier (18-21) nicked starting pitcher Rick Atkins (6-1) for single runs in the second and third to tie things.
In the fourth, Trevor Paulsen led off with a single, and Owen Carstensen followed with a perfect bunt hit between the mound and first base, the runners moving up on Hosch’s throw past second baseman Quinn Miller, who ran all the way over to try and cover first. Atkins helped himself out with a RBI groundout, then Chase Zielke followed with a run-scoring single to right-center.
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“I thought it was extremely important to get out front of them,” Fish said. “I felt like the home run by Mitch kind of set the tone there, kind of relaxed us a little bit ... I’m just really happy with these guys. Rick didn’t have his best stuff, but it was good enough, especially for a sophomore in front of a lot of people.”
Lefty Atkins didn’t give up a hit after the third, allowing just four in the game. Xavier turned three huge double plays in the game to keep things very tight, but Marion came up with the game’s biggest to end a Saints threat in the sixth.
With two on, Garrett Ries hit a grounder toward the middle that second baseman Parker Ridge stabbed with a semi-dive to his right. From his knees, he flipped the ball with his glove to Baylor Fish for the out at second, with the shortstop’s relay on time for a beautiful 4-6-3 twin-killing.
“That just picked up our team on all levels,” said Atkins, who walked one and struck out three. “I trusted my defense more than anything tonight. I knew if I could just command the fastball, my defense would do the work behind me. That’s how I got through the game.”
“Tip your cap to Coach Fish and his staff. They have a good baseball team, deserved to win, played well,” said Xavier Coach Bob Cataldo. “I was just impressed by how our kids competed. That first inning, we give up the (home run), but they didn’t shut it up, they didn’t shrink away. They fought and fought. That was a good baseball game.”
Marion left fielder Blair Brooks left the game after taking a blow to the head on a slide at second base on Xavier’s third DP in the fourth. Fish said he should be available Wednesday.
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