After opening 12U state tournament play with a 6-2 triumph over Peru, the Marion Giants split a pair of contests on Wednesday evening, falling to Northwestern, 9-7, before bouncing back with a 12-9 victory over Taylor to stave off elimination.
Against the Tigers, R.J. Holmes and Amar Rogers each finished with two hits, while Holmes drove in three runs. Caleb Richardson came away with a hit and two RBI, while Rogers and Lincoln Detamore also plated a run in their opening loss to Northwestern.
Hayden Cook was brilliant on the mound for the Tigers over four innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs while striking out 10.
Marion started the scoring in the first inning, as Richardson drove in Rogers from second base with an RBI single, but the Tigers’ offense responded, scoring five runs over the next three innings to grab a 5-1 advantage.
Teegan Helmle and Brayden Applegate scored Northwestern’s first two runs on passed balls in the first inning. Parker Roswog scored on another passed ball in the second, before Helmle drove in Colton Berry with an RBI double. And in the third, Jaxon Hansen’s RBI groundout increased Northwestern’s lead to four.
The Giants got one back in the fourth, as Detamore’s RBI groundout plated Holmes, but Northwestern’s offense once again had the answer, scoring two more runs in the bottom half of the inning. Andrew Lesko came home on a Marion error, while Cook followed with an RBI double.
The Giants’ slogan, which can be heard at many sporting events throughout the year, is “GFND”, or “Giants Fight, Never Die.”
And despite trailing 7-2, Marion lived up to those words.
After Northwestern made a pitching change, the Giants took full advantage. Rogers started the rally with an RBI single, scoring Andrew Monday, and Richardson drove in his second run of the contest on a fielders choice, bringing Holmes up to the plate with two runners on.
With one swing of the bat, Holmes made it a brand new ball game, sending a first pitch fastball over the center field fence to tie the game at 7-7.
The Tigers, however, were able to pull it out, scoring two more runs in the sixth and final inning to hold Marion’s furious comeback attempt.
While Marion fell just short, Head Coach Tino Mitchener was pleased with his kids’ never-say-die attitude.
“A lot of times, especially with 12 and under, 10 and under kids, they get down five or six runs, they just want to fold up and die,” Marion Head Coach Tino Mitchener said. “I told them we haven’t had our inning yet, and we were able to get a few guys on base and get a key hitter up. He got a big hit, we tied the game, and we were right there. Couple of balls bounced the wrong way for us, but we never stopped, we never quit.”
If these two teams were to face off again, Mitchener and the Giants now know what to expect.
“We’ve seen their best,” Mitchener said. “I admit the first couple of innings we were a little starstruck. So next time when we see them, we will be ready. We aren’t going to wait until the third or fourth inning to score runs.”
With their backs against the walls, the Giants answered in a big way in their second contest against Taylor.
Rogers finished the game with two hits, three runs scored, and three RBI, while Tre Brown also recorded two hits and three RBI. Richardson drove in two more runs, while Holmes and Johnson each had an RBI.
In a must-win contest, Tre Adaway shined. After pitching sparingly throughout the course of the summer, he pitched a solid 4.1 innings against Taylor, giving up six hits and five runs, striking out five.
“I have to give it to Tre Adaway,” Mitchener said. “That guy literally only pitched three innings all year. And for me to ask him to come in a very tough all-star game after only pitching three innings all year, I thought he did a phenomenal job. Hats off to him.”
Marion scored three runs in the first inning, taking a lead they would not relinquish. A Taylor error brought Rogers home from second base, Holmes hit an RBI triple, and Brown followed with a run-scoring single.
Brown’s two-run single in the third and Richardson’s two-run double in the fourth gave the Giants a 7-3 advantage, and after Taylor tied it up in the top of the fifth, the Giants came back with a five-run frame of their own, regaining the lead for good. Johnson drove in one run on a bases-loaded walk, and Rogers contributed three of those runs with a bases-clearing triple.
The Giants face an uphill battle, having to win out to keep their championship hopes alive, but Mitchener has faith in his team, and believes that they have the ability to get the job done.
“They carried that [resilience] into the second game,” Mitchener said. “They want to come back Friday. They want to come back and win this thing. And they can.”