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Kokomo pulls away from Giants again

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Marion’s past two baseball games games against arch-rival Kokomo has done much to sap the momentum the Giants had built throughout the spring.

While not quite as gut-wrenching as Monday, the Wildkats continued to show dominance over the Giants with an 8-2 victory at Art Caldwell Field. The ‘Kats jumped in front 6-1 after 11/2 innings and four pitchers limited the Giants to four hits.

The Giants had dropped a 16-3 decision to Kokomo just two days earlier in a North Central Conference tournament game and were outscored 24-5 in the two games. Coach Mark Fagan admitted it had taken some of the luster off their six-game win streak leading up to the Kokomo debacles.

Marion (12-7-2) now must regroup according to Fagan and get back on a winning track in a 10 a.m. Saturday NCC tourney game against Logansport on its home field. The Berries are having a rare down season at 11-11, 1-7 NCC.

“It feels like we lost momentum,” Fagan said, “but hopefully Saturday we can come in with a whole new attitude and get going again and get on a little bit of a streak.

“I heard a couple of players say why do we have to play when we’ve already been beat and I don’t like to hear that,” Fagan continued. “We’ll put out nine guys who want to play baseball on Saturday and I don’t care if they’re all freshmen. We’ll play the best we can and go from there.”

Kokomo (13-7-1) scored a pair of runs in the first against Giants starter Broc Allgood on a wild pitch and Justin Hurlock’s two-out single. The ‘Kats then stretched their lead even further in their next at-bat, scoring four runs in the second with Jaden Armfield’s two-run home run the big hit.

“It was good to get a little lead out there and make it more comfortable and then we got everybody in the game,” first-year Kokomo coach Tim Weir said.

Weir said he was saving his best pitchers for Saturday and starter Michael Ewing had thrown 8.2 innings this spring. Ewing exited after two innings and Weir used three relievers to finish up.

“We were trying to save some arms for the weekend, and so we got four different arms on the mound today,” Weir said. “That was good because none of them had been out there that much.”

Allgood lasted only two innings and gave up six runs, all earned, allowed six hits and three walks while striking out one. A.J. Mitchener followed with four innings and gave up two runs on two hits, six walks and four strikeouts. Riley Russell finished with a 1-2-3 seventh including two strikeouts - the only time the ’Kats were retired in order.

Fagan said the Giants pitching staff should be set for Saturday with Ethan Dixon getting the call against Logansport.

“We tried to save some (pitchers) for Saturday’s NCC game and trying to keep everybody in their pitch count so they’ll be ready” he said.

Marion closed to within 2-1 in its first when Logan Wagner scored on a wild pitch after reaching base on a walk. Russell’s two-out single in the fourth drove in Mitchener, who had reached base when the ‘Kats catcher dropped a called third strike and he beat the throw to first.

Reynolds had two hits and reached base three times and Allgood also had a base hit.

Giants outfielders Dre Aguilar and Reynolds turned in stellar defensive plays in the sixth. Aguilar was first with a diving catch in right field and then threw out the baserunner retreating back to first base for a double play. Reynolds followed with a difficult catch in center that robbed the ‘Kats of a run.

Yet, the beginning of the game when Fagan sensed the players showed little emotion was troubling for the coach.

“We were kind of sloppy again, sluggish, and I don’t know what the problem is” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get it out of their system. I’m giving them (Friday) off and hopefully they’ll be ready to go Saturday.

“I stressed to them when we took the field tonight don’t let them overlook us, take a little bit of pride and battle back,” he added. “We know they’re a good ballclub, but we’ve got to have a little more drive.”