Prep Baseball

Rick Atkins' pitching gem helps Marion avoid district-opening upset against Newton

Indians move on to face South Tama in district finals

Marion's Rick Atkins. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Marion's Rick Atkins. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

MARION — The media loves QuikStats. The players, the parents, the fans, they all love QuikStats.

But the coaches? Sometimes they’re a little wary of the online statistical database that serves just about every high school sport in the state of Iowa.

It can create a sort of over confidence in teenagers that can be deadly this time of the season.

“Yes, that’s extremely difficult,” Marion baseball coach Steve Fish said, after his fourth-ranked Indians toppled Newton, 5-0, Friday night in a Class 3A district opener. “Now we live in an era of QuikStats, so kids are looking at that. They’re looking at averages, they’re looking at everything. Playoff baseball, I know a little better, have done it a few years, that I know upsets happen.”

Marion’s opponent here came in with a 2-27 record, but Newton definitely did not play like its record. Just as Fish predicted.

For the most part, the Cardinals fielded the ball cleanly, and starting pitcher Ryan Barr threw well, belying his 0-9 record and earned run average over 7.00.

“I tell you what, I don’t know how that team wins only two games,” Fish said. “That kid on the mound was not bad. He competed.”

But so, too, did Marion starting pitcher Rick Atkins, who spun a neat little three-hitter with 14 strikeouts. The southpaw, headed to D-I South Dakota State, gave up singles in the first and second innings, picked off the guy who had the second single, then retired the next 13 hitters.

“The heat was hard to deal with, but I’ve been hydrating for the last two days, so it wasn’t the worst,” Atkins said of a heat index that spiked at 114 degrees Friday. “I think my offspeed could have been better tonight. My fastball, I had some command to it. I just really have to give it up to my guys behind me. It’s pretty easy when you’ve got a good defense like mine.”

Brady Johnson’s two-out double in the second put Marion on top for good, Mitch McAllister had a sacrifice fly in the third, Owen Puk one in a three-run third. This was Marion’s 30th win of the season and it already has clinched a school record for fewest losses with five.

“It’s been a fun season. A lot of wins,” Johnson said. “This is the best time of the year. Right now is when you want to play.”

The Indians host South Tama in a district final Monday night at 7. The Trojans (15-21) won the opener here, 7-0, over Bondurant-Farrar.

South Tama scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to its win. It got a two-run single from sophomore Lane Lekin in the inning and a two-run double to the left-field fence from Gavin Jimenez, also a sophomore.

South Tama played errorless baseball defensively behind starting pitcher Carter Kriegel. The senior right-hander ran his season record to 8-1 and lowered his earned run average to 1.68.

He did not pitch against Marion in a regular-season doubleheader at Marion. The Indians swept the twinbill by scores of 3-2 and 10-0 in five innings.

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