In Tuesday’s night second 12u semifinal matchup, the No. 2 ranked Marion Firefighters, led by Marion Babe Ruth League Commissioner Tino Mitchener, used an effective combination of sound pitching from Mason Bunch and a stout offensive output to advance to the 12u championship game, defeating the No. 5 ranked Marion Lions Club by a score of 13-6.
The Firefighters finished the contest with nine hits, and seven of their 13 batters collected at least one knock in the victory.
“Last week, we played a doubleheader and struck out 29 times in two games. I told them to not forget that number,” Mitchener said. “They came out tonight and absolutely hit the cover off the ball and gave Mason some support.”
Bunch, as he has for most of the summer season, shined in the batters box and on the mound for the Firefighters. He held a stout Lions Club lineup at bay for most of the evening, allowing zero hits and striking out 12 batters over the course of five efficient innings, and at the plate, he finished 2-for-3 with a triple, a double, and three runs batted in.
The Lions Club, carrying over their momentum from their victory over VIA the night before, struck first in the contest, taking advantage of a pair of walks. Aaron Mauller started the scoring on a Firefighters’ fielding error, before Jayden Johnson, using his tremendous speed, came home on a passed ball, giving the Lions Club an early 2-0 lead.
However, the Firefighters struck back with a vengeance, taking the lead for good in the bottom half of the frame. Ah’lijeh Monday started the rally with a leadoff single, and two batters later, Bunch’s three-bagger helped trim the deficit to one run. Tre Brown tied the contest with an RBI double, scoring Bunch, before he and Ayden Pearce crossed home plate to give the Firefighters a 4-2 advantage.
The Firefighters kept the pedal down in the second frame, scoring five more runs to increase their lead to 9-2. Blake Castillo brought home two with a double, before scoring on a Lions Club fielding error, and later, Bunch scorched a double to the fence, plating both Gage and Brody Stickann.
Gage Pearce and Brayton Bauer hit an RBI double and single, respectively, in the third inning, and the Firefighters added a pair of insurance runs in the final two frames to punch their ticket to Friday night’s championship contest against No. 1 ranked STAR Financial.
“We know them very well. We’ve played them three times, and I think they’ve all been one or two run ball games,” Mitchener said. “We are going to come right after them. Our guys are going good now. It’s going to come down to who makes the plays and who plays smart baseball.”
The Lions Club did not go quietly, putting together one final rally in the fifth inning. They scored four runs on three passed balls and a Firefighters’ fielding error, but they were unable to get any closer than six runs as their season came to an end.
Along with Bunch, Monday had an excellent outing, finishing 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored. Brown went 1-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI in the Firefighters’ victory.