ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
In the same day, the Marion baseball team was handed two things-a dose of reality, but an even greater dose of confidence.
When the day was over, the Warriors had dropped a pair of games to Haven, 9-2 and 10-9, but in the process the Warriors learned that with a few minor adjustments, they’re able to compete with anyone in the Mid-Central Activities Association.
“I think by playing as hard as we did and knowing we could have easily won both of these games against a good (Class) 4A team, it just adds fuel to our fire,” coach Sean Spoonts said. “It gives us a little extra spice to improve and get better.”
In the opener, Brian Swenson (0-1) threw 52/3 strong innings, allowing eight hits, four earned runs and striking out seven.
“He pitched pretty well overall,” Spoonts said. “The pitches they hit hard were ones he left up in the zone on his off-speed stuff.
“We just need to work on his location a little bit and he’s going to be able to pitch against just about anybody.”
Haven jumped on top 2-0 in the bottom of the first after a double, a hit batter and a stolen base put runners on second and third.
After Swenson got a strike out for the second out, a bloop single down the right field line brought both runners home.
The Warriors cut the lead in half in the fourth inning when Todd Woodruff was plunked by a pitch, stole second base and then scored on Ryan Gaines’ single.
Swenson battled through a jam in the bottom of the fourth when Haven got a double and a hit batter with two outs before Josh Kelsey fielded a grounder at third, forcing the third out of the inning.
Momentum seemed to be favoring the Warriors after that play. Into the top of the fifth, Clayton Garnica doubled off the right-center field fence and Derek Benson singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out.
Cody Weerts then drilled a grounder to the shortstop, who fired the ball home to nail Garnica at the plate.
On the play, Benson was caught in a run down between second and third and tagged out. Weerts, trailing the play, was also tagged out at first to end the bizarre triple play.
Spoonts said the play was a definite momentum buster for his team.
“Anytime you have runners on first and third with no one out and you don’t score, it’s not a good thing,” he said. “It really was a momentum changer.”
Haven used the momentum to extend its lead to 4-1 with a pair of scorers in the bottom half of the inning.
The Warriors got one run back in the top of the seventh inning as Garnica scored after belting his second double of the game.
But the Wildcats added five runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a 320-foot blast over the left field fence by Josh Bearling.
Calvin Jeffrey recorded the final out after allowing two hits and one run in the 9-2 loss.
In the second game, Weerts got the starting nod and pitched 51/3 innings of effective baseball.
The game was feast or famine for the Warriors, who rapped out 12 hits but were victimized by 14 strikeouts.
After the Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the first, Haven answered with three in the bottom half of the inning.
Haven stretched the lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning, but the Warriors got a single run in the fifth when Tyson Heidebrecht was hit by a pitch and scored on Gaines’ double to cut the margin to 4-2.
The Wildcats responded with two more runs in the fifth before the Warriors battled back.
In the sixth, base hits by Swenson, Garnica and Gaines led to three runs as the Warriors whittled the lead to 6-5.
Haven answered with four runs in the home half of the sixth off reliever Todd Woodruff (0-1), who faced four hitters and allowed two hits and one earned run.
Trailing 10-5 going into its last at bat, the Warriors rallied to score four runs and had the tying run on third when the final out was recorded as Haven posted the 10-9 win.
Marion managed 11 hits in the second game while the Wildcats had 12.
“Overall, our pitching was pretty good,” Spoonts said. “We only gave up three walks in the doubleheader so we were pleased with that.
“I thought in the first game we looked nervous, but once we got that out of our system, the guys played pretty well,” he said. “It was a good assessment of where we are and what we need to work on to improve.”
With the losses, the Warriors start the season 0-2.
“Right now, we’re basically learning about each other,” Spoonts said. “We need to get to know each other as a team and as coaches, but I feel good about where we are with that.”
Coming-Marion was scheduled to travel to Nickerson to battle the Panthers on Tuesday before returning home Friday to host Hoisington, beginning at 4:30 p.m.