Any one of the starters in the Marion High School baseball pitching rotation could be put into the role of reliever. Grif Case and Ethan Hett stepped up with shutdown relief performances April 17 as Marion won 8-3 and 3-2 decisions against the Bennington Bulldogs in Marion.
Austin Pederson started the first game and benefited from early run production that created a 7-0 Marion lead going into the top of the fifth inning.
Pederson’s pitch count was high as the Bulldogs touched him for 3 runs, and Marion head coach Roger Schroeder made the move to Case with two outs in the inning.
Bennington batters were stymied by Case, who didn’t allow a hit or a run over the next 2-1/3 innings while collecting one strikeout.
“Austin threw the ball pretty well for a second straight outing,” Schroeder said. “I would like to see more quality strikes early in the count because it would allow him to work deeper into the game and save not only his arm, but the arms of our bullpen as well. Grif did a nice job coming in a shutting the door to earn the save.”
Pederson helped his own cause at the plate by going 2-for-2, with 2 runs scored and an RBI. Dylan Seacat had 3 RBIs on 2-of-3 hitting, and Jacob Harper went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs and a run scored.
Schroeder said the Warriors must work on having better eyes and more patience at the plate.
“We have to be a little more selective early in the count. We got ourselves out a lot by swinging at bad pitches early in the count,” Schroeder said.
Harper took the ball to start the second game and held the Bulldogs scoreless through three innings. Bennington broke out for 2 runs in the top of the fourth, but Marion answered when Ethan Hett drove in 2 runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Harper turned the ball over to Hett with 2 outs in the sixth inning, having allowed only 3 hits and ringing up 5 strikeouts against 6 walks.
Hett took care of 2 of the 4 outs he needed by striking out two Bulldogs. He allowed 1 hit but no runs, preserving the 2-2 tie as the Warriors came to bat in the bottom of the seventh.
Cole Lewman came to the plate with Taylor Heidebrecht in scoring position. Heidebrecht advanced to second on perfect bunt by Seacat that the Bulldogs were unable to make a play on.
On the third pitch he saw, Lewman laced a single to right center field that drove home Heidebrecht with the game-winning run.
“I was extremely happy for Cole to get a big hit like that,” Schroeder said. “He has been struggling for most of the year, but that is the kind of at-bat that can turn a season around.”
Marion collected 11 hits in the game, but unlike the first game, only two resulted in RBIs. Schroeder attributed the team’s slow start offensively in the game to being flat.
“I was upset with our effort early on. When you have the opportunity to earn a sweep you should really come out aggressive and try to bury the other side early on. We just seemed to walk through the first couple innings,” Schroeder said.
“Jacob did well on the mound, but like Austin in game one just didn’t throw enough quality strikes early in the count and was working from behind too often. He battled very well into the sixth inning and kept us in the game.”
Marion wraps up the Heart of America league portion of their schedule this week. Tuesday they traveled to Inman, and they finish off Friday against Ell-Saline in Marion.