The Marion Giants did all the little things right on Friday evening during their Sectional 23 semifinal contest against host Bellmont.
They made the routine plays on defense, committing just one error in the field. They did an excellent job of advancing runners into scoring position. And most importantly, when the Braves made a mistake, they capitalized.
Those factors, combined with the tremendous performance of Kyree Simmons on the mound, clinched Marion’s first sectional championship berth since 1998, as the Giants came away with a 5-2 triumph.
Marion started the scoring in the first inning. After Logan Wagner drew a one-out walk and Dylan Meyer singled, Jaquan Reeves recorded a fielders choice RBI, scoring Wagner and beating out the throw to first.
But the Braves were able to tie the contest at 1-1 without recording a hit in the bottom of the frame. Leadoff batter Cam Voglewede was hit by a pitch, and later scored on an fielders choice RBI from Tyler Bauer.
In the second inning, the Braves made some costly mistakes – which would end up costing them their season. The Giants did not record a hit in the frame, but scored two runs off a pair of errors. As Broc Allgood was stealing third, an errant throw on the pickoff attempt sailed past Bellmont third baseman Colin Mills. Allgood scored easily, giving the Giants a lead they would not relinquish.
Moments later, Anthony Reynolds grounded to second base for what looked to be a sure third out, but another fielding error led to another Marion run, as D’Angelo Jones crossed home plate to give the Giants a 3-1 lead after two.
“When we put the ball in play, we can make things happen,” Marion Head Coach Mark Fagan said. “If we can take advantage of those small-ball errors that they want to give us, we’ll take them.”
Armed with the advantage, Simmons settled down nicely after the second inning. Over the next four innings, he was unhittable. He stifled Bellmont’s offense with a nice mixture of his fastball and offspeed pitches, allowing just one hit and three baserunners.
“I was feeling good,” Simmons said. “The coaches took care of my arm and let me rest for a good week. That was one thing I told my coaches. I said ‘if you let my arm rest, I will be able to bring it the full game.’”
Meanwhile, as Simmons was dealing on the mound, Marion’s offense continued to provide more of a cushion. In the third inning, Allgood hit an RBI groundout, scoring Jaquan Reeves, and in the fourth, Jones scored his second run of the game on another Bellmont error, giving Marion a 5-1 lead.
Bellmont found a little life in the seventh, recording two hits and scoring a run, but Simmons and the Giants’ defense shut the door, punching their ticket to the Sectional 23 championship, and a date with the Jay County Patriots.
“It’s crazy. It’s what we’ve dreamed of,” Simmons said. “We’ve dreamed of this since we were freshmen. It just feels good knowing that we are going to the finals [in the] sectional.”
Simmons pitched a complete game, allowing just four hits while striking out five.
“Kyree did it for us – he did a hell of a job for us,” Fagan said. “He had them all off balance.”
Offensively, Reeves and Tyras Brown each finished with two hits, while Meyer, Allgood, and Reynolds recorded the other three.
It’s been 21 years since Marion has won a sectional title.
Now, they’ve got a chance to end that drought.
“We want to come over here and [continue] to do we we’ve done,” Fagan said. “We need to hit the ball and make some fielding plays, and hopefully everything goes well for us.”