SOLON — Marion Coach Steve Fish recalled his first assistant baseball coaching job.
He was on the Cedar Rapids Washington staff of Hall of Famer Harold “Pinky” Primrose, who coached Fish his final two years at Coe College. He couldn’t fathom nearing Primrose’s 728 career wins.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if I’ll stay around that long to coach,’” Fish said with a laugh. “Just to think I’m within sniffing distance of Pinky Primrose makes me proud. I hope I make him proud a little bit.”
Fish reached the 700-career victory club after Class 3A fifth-ranked Marion’s Wamac Conference doubleheader sweep of No. 6 Solon Monday night at Solon. The Indians won 3-2 and 5-0, receiving complete-game gems from Rick Atkins and Dane Carstensen for 10 straight wins.
“About the seventh inning, I heard this was for 700,” said Carstensen, who threw a three-hitter with five strikeouts in the nightcap. “I’ve been with him for three years. Both of my brothers went through the program. We all love the guy, so it was like 'let’s go out here and get it done and over with.'”
The players knew. They are a key to his longevity and success.
“Great kids,” Fish said. “I told them it’s all about good kids and relationships.”
Fish recalled his first baseball memory, attending a Washington Senators baseball game with his dad, Dennis, who was a naval officer. He credited his father for his love of the game.
“I walked in and remember seeing the green grass,” Fish said. “I was hooked. I loved baseball. I think I lived in a baseball uniform.”
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Primrose also had a resounding impact on Fish as well. He said he tried to soak up as much knowledge as possible for the longtime high school and college coach who has been a big part of the local baseball landscape.
“He taught me a lot,” Fish said. “I realized I wanted to be a baseball coach. I loved sitting next to him and listening to him talk. I owe a lot to him.”
Fish passed on the love of baseball to his sons, coaching Byron, B.J. and Baylor, who now learns from his dad as a current Marion assistant. Fish also helped coach his daughter, Brittany. Family is important to Fish. He praised them for their efforts that allowed him to be a coach, especially his wife, Vickie.
“I have an awesome family,” Fish said. “My wife and kids, they are my support.”
Marion put him in position for the milestone with a win in the opener. Atkins threw a three-hitter, striking out 11. The Indians scratched out three runs, albeit in unorthodox fashion. One came on a bases-loaded walk in the first, a balk brought in the next in the fourth and pinch-hitter Mark Horcher drove in the winning run in the sixth, resulting from the Spartans’ only error in Game 1.
In Game 2, two errors helped Marion in a two-run third. Gage Franck added an RBI single in the fourth and Austin Prier had a run-scoring single in the two-run fifth.
Carstensen tossed Marion’s fourth shutout in the last six games. Fish said Carstensen has been Mr. Reliable and was a game-time decision to start on the mound. He only faced 24 batters — three more than the minimum — and never let a Spartan reach third base.
“It’s all about throwing strikes, getting it over the plate and letting the other team put it in play,” said Carstensen, who improved to 3-1 with a 0.97 earned-run average. “I seemed to throw a little bit hard tonight, so I was just trying to throw strikes out there.”
The Indians (18-3, 14-2) keep finding ways to win.
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“We’ve been playing really good team baseball,” Fish said. “Different guys step up. We’re not exactly flashy but I like our guys a lot.
“We’ve got some good pitching. We got some timely (hitting). We were fortunate they threw a couple runs to us and we took advantage of it.”
Ryan Geistkemper had three hits and two RBIs to lead Solon (14-8, 11-6).
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