Tuesday night’s second 12u contest was a back-and-forth affair full of big hits, ever-changing leads, and some stellar late-game pitching.
But at the end of the night, the Marion Lions Club was the only team left standing, punching their ticket to the semifinal round with an 8-7 victory over VIA Credit Union in the 12u championship tournament.
After giving up six runs in the third inning, and losing the lead in the process, Lions Head Coach Jason Clark switched pitchers, opting to put in Rashad Holmes over usual starter Aaron Mauller.
The move paid dividends, and ultimately helped the Lion Club emerge triumphant.
“They’ve got heart,” Clark said. “They battled back through adversity. They didn’t let their heads down. They kept their heads in the game. They did the little things, stopped making the little errors, and started putting the bat on the ball. That’s the big difference.”
With his team trailing 7-3, Holmes put on a pitching clinic, allowing just one hit and two total baserunners in the final three frames, striking out seven batters in the process while not allowing a single run.
With Holmes dealing on the mound, the Lions Club’s offense did their job, scoring three runs in the fourth frame to grab an advantage they would not relinquish.
VIA struck first in the contest, opening the scoring with a single run in the top of the second inning. After Kaiden Fouce was hit by a pitch, Aiden Hawkins followed with a double, and an RBI single from Lucas Payne gave VIA a 1-0 lead.
The Lions Club struck back, responding with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the second frame. Jayden Johnson and Ethan Nall reached base safely on back-to-back walks, and the duo later scored on a VIA fielding error. Holmes also scored on a passed ball, giving the Lions Club a 3-1 advantage.
VIA’s offense then exploded, crossing home plate six times in the third inning to seemingly take control of the contest. Baisden Stewart hit an RBI single and JJ Faw followed with an RBI triple to score VIA’s first two runs, and Fouce followed with a run-scoring base hit, scoring Caleb Richardson. Faw, Bryce Graft, and Fouce also scored in the frame before it was called due to Marion Babe Ruth Baseball’s six-run rule per inning.
Despite trailing by four runs, the Lions Club did not show an ounce of doubt, and eventually, the hits just started to roll in. Taeshon Caldwell cut the deficit in half with a two-run double in the third, making it a 7-5 VIA lead, before the Lions Club grabbed the lead back for good in the fourth.
Johnson led off the frame with a single, which put Holmes at the plate representing the tying run. Holmes made the most of his opportunity, scorching a ball to the center field and finishing with a two-run, inside the park home run, tying the game at 7-7.
Gabe Clark put the finishing touches on the Lions Club’s comeback, scoring on a passed ball to help punch their ticket to the semifinal round.
“It’s going to be a tough championship regardless of who gets there,” Clark said. “I have to give credit to the kids. They kept their heads in it, and they played all the way.”
Caldwell and Holmes each finished with two runs batted in, while Holmes also finished with two runs scored. Johnson also scored twice for Lions Club.
Faw played a tremendous game for VIA, going 2-for-3 with a double and a triple, while Payne went for 2-for-2 with two RBI.