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Marion baseball has a slight wobble, a responding 11-run knockout punch in substate semifinals
Center Point-Urbana scores the game’s first run, but Marion counters with 11 in 11-1, 5-inning Class 3A substate semifinal win
MARION — If Class 3A’s top-ranked baseball team wasn’t reeling, it certainly was on its heels.
The postseason is a fickle deal sometimes, and the pressure of being a substantial favorite can get to you. It honestly felt like it was getting to the Marion Indians in the top of the fifth inning Monday night.
A couple of defensive miscues gave big underdog Center Point-Urbana a run, a lead and all the momentum. Then the bottom of the fifth happened.
A mere 13 batters and 11 runs later, Marion had itself a pretty unbelievable 11-1 mercy rule victory. Man, did this one just completely flip and then some.
“A crazy inning, yeah,” said Marion’s Myles Davis. “We’re down 1-0, we can’t let it get to our heads. It’s just one run. We know what we can do if we get the bat on the ball, put bunts down and just score runs. We can win the game. We know we can.”
Marion (33-6) will be favored again Wednesday night in its substate final at home against Benton Community (14-22). It’ll be interesting to see if the Indians learned anything from this game.
“Very pleased with the reaction,” said Marion Coach Steve Fish. “Obviously in a playoff atmosphere, a good crowd here tonight, getting down is good for us because this team has not had a lot of games like this, and that has always worried me. We responded.”
Marion blasted Center Point-Urbana (17-19) twice in the regular season, winning a five-inning game and six-inning game by a combined margin of 32-8. But CPU starting pitcher Grant Bryant kept Marion’s potent offense off the scoreboard the first four innings, hitting his spots and dropping a nice curveball into the strike zone.
An error on a misplayed fly to center field began the top of the fifth. A hit by pitch put runners at second and first with none out against Marion starting pitcher Owen Puk, then CPU’s Ethan Lafler dropped down a good bunt in front of the mound that Puk threw away at first base, scoring a Stormin’ Pointers run and putting guys at first and third.
But the Florida International commit struck out the next batter, a runner was thrown out at the plate on the old first-and-third, intentional-pickle play, and Puk got another swinging strkeout to limit the damage to just one.
“I’m just thinking hit a spot, make my pitch here,” Puk said. “Give my team a chance to win. It was huge to get out of that.”
Ryan Paulsen began the bottom of the fifth with a four-pitch walk, then all hell broke loose. Gage Franck put down a sacrifice bunt, CPU’s catcher threw wildly into Franck and past first base, an error that scored Paulsen and sent Franck all the way to third.
Cael Hodges’ lined single through a drawn-in left side scored Franck to give Marion a 2-1 lead. Then it was a walk, a bunt single, a bases-loaded walk, a sacrifice fly, a two-run triple by Jake Trca, two more walks …
You get the idea. Bryant finally was removed after walking Hodges on his 47th pitch of the inning. Puk smoked a two-run triple off the fence in right-center field, and Davis ended the game with a lined RBI single over the shortstop’s head.
“We got knocked down a little bit,” Puk said. “But we just kept our spirits high, came back and played our game.”
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