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Reeves, Dixon top all-county baseball team

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TOP PLAYER: Marion’s Jaquan Reeves hit nearly .400 for the Giants and was the most improved player in Grant County during the 2019 season. He is also the Chronicle-Tribune Player of the Year.
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TOP PITCHER: Marion’s Ethan Dixon helped pitch the Giants to their first winning season in nearly two decades and is the Chronicle-Tribune’s top pitcher for the 2019 season.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Marion Giants baseball woke up from a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber this spring with the aid of two players who seemingly had been in stasis themselves.

Jaquan Reeves batted .200 in 2018 and played mainly for the junior varsity while Ethan Dixon's pitching for the Giants had been unremarkable. Yet, each had big breakout seasons as seniors and earned the Chronicle-Tribune Grant County Player and Pitcher of the Year honors.

Marion finished 16-12-2 for its most successful season since 2000 and advanced to a sectional championship game for the first time since winning its last title in 1998. Reeves led the Giants with a .391 batting average and multiple offensive categories, while Dixon was 6-2 with a 2.64 earned-run average and struck out 79 batters over 55 2/3 innings.

"Ethan had a very great year," Giants coach Mark Fagan said. "He put the team on his shoulders and took us to the sectional championship game. And Jaquan shows you just how hard work pays off ... when he came out and hit the ball the way he did this year."

Dixon, a left-hander, was considered the Giants' No. 2 pitcher entering the spring behind Broc Allgood and at the same level as Kyree Simmons, who would finish 6-1 and earn all-county honors. But Dixon gained confidence after his first start against Eastbrook and allowed one hit and no runs over four innings and struck out nine batters.

"I thought I had a really exceptional year on the mound and I wouldn't have been able to do it without my team," Dixon said. "My catcher helped me out a lot this year, and I want to pay respects to my travel team (Fort Wayne Diamondbacks) who helped me a lot with my mechanics and pushed me with my recovery period so I was able to go a lot longer and finish games better.

"The big key is my defense helped me out all season long and they were really supportive," Dixon continued.

Dixon had back-to-back complete game starts where he struck out double-digit batters - 11 against Anderson and 15 in his next outing against Elwood. He lost a 2-0 decision to the Indians, but more often he pitched the Giants to big wins.

Among them was a 3-1 win over Northfield when Dixon pitched a two-hitter with nine strikeouts over seven innings, and another two-hitter in a 7-1 win over Elwood. Then came the Giants' biggest postseason win in many years when he tossed a three-hit shutout against Norwell in the opening round sectional game.

"He took the game more serious," Fagan said of Dixon. "Once he had that first good outing and then had 15 strikeouts early in the year, he gained confidence, and then picked off a couple kids and it just went from there. From then on, when he went to the mound he expected to win."

Dixon's pickoff move to first base became a devastating weapon and Fagan estimated Dixon used it to nab 15 baserunners. While being left-handed gives him an advantage, Dixon didn't have that move until working with his travel league team.

"They helped me with all my mechanical stuff," Dixon said. "... It was a different atmosphere - more competitive, more serious - and that's what pushed my competitive drive this year way more than years prior. They helped fix the way i pitched and I was able to throw harder and get my breaking balls moving more, which allowed me to keep hitters off balance and improve all around."

Confidence and hard work propelled Reeves to his outstanding season where he also led the Giants in RBIs (18), slugging percentage (.615) and on base-plus-slugging percentage (1.135). A right-handed hitter, he also had a team-best two home runs coming in a doubleheader against Peru and hit 10 doubles that trailed only Logan Wagner's 11.

"In the past, I was going up there stressed out and not thinking I could hit the ball," Reeves said, "and this year it all changed for me with my confidence and knowing I could hit the ball. ... If I had the same mentality I had the last three years I know I could have definitely hit the way I did this year.

"I was just doing little things like hitting the ball where it needs to be or getting on base and scoring ... and helping team out as much as I can," he added. "I dropped my hands a little lower and got my hands a little quicker and coach (Blake) Hancock helped out with that quite a bit."

Reeves spent much time in the weight room last summer, and his hitting workout regimen earned Fagan's praise.

"He would stay after practice and work with the hitting machine," Fagan said. "There were nights when he was there at 10 o'clock after he got off work hitting balls and just doing the extra little things that helped get him over the edge."

The added muscle was essentially for football, where Reeves was a starting defensive lineman for the Giants' Class 4A semistate team, but it had residual benefits for baseball.

"I was in the weight room every day and gained 23-24 pounds just lifting," he said. "... I was working out last summer like a bodybuilder and then football came and I lost all that size. After football I just worked out real hard and got my size back and got ready for baseball."

Reeves was steady throughout the season with few prolonged slumps and his best hitting performances was 2-for-4 against Indianapolis Tech, both triples, and 3-for-3 against Anderson with a double, one RBI and three runs scored.

After helping Marion win eight of 10 North Central Conference games, Reeves and Dixon were the only Giants named to the all-league first team. Both want to continue playing baseball in college but still are weighing their options.

Earlier this week, Reeves visited Ivy Tech, Fort Wayne, which only recently began a baseball program, and he's hoping to attract interest from other colleges while playing for Post 10's American Legion team.

"I haven't got any big options," Reeves said. "... I definitely know I can play at the next level, I've just got to get that shot."

Indiana Wesleyan, Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, and Manchester have contacted Dixon, and he hopes a good summer with the Diamondbacks will lead to other offers.

"I want to pitch in college ... that's always been a dream of mine since I was little," Dixon said. "So it's really been a dream come true this year."

2019 All-Grant County baseball team

Pitchers

Player, Gr., School~W-L~ Sv~ ERA~ IP~ H~ BB~ SO~ WHIP

Ethan Dixon, Sr., Marion~6-2~1 2.64~55.2~53~29~72~1.485

Kyree Simmons, Sr., Marion~6-1~0~3.14~42.1~35~28~48~1.496

Landen Swanner, So., Ole Miss~2-3~0~2.51~30.2~24~20~24~1.457

Nick Evans, So., Madison-Grant~2-5~0~3.57~51~ 62~ 26~ 56~1.725

Harrison Walker, Jr., Oak Hill~3-3~0~2.31~36.1~32~19~40~1.413

Position players

Pos.-Player, Gr., School~BA~AB~R~2B~3B~HR~RBI~SB

C-Mason Richards, Fr., M-G~.246~57~1~2~0~0~10~1

1B-Josh Pluimer, Sr., Eastbrook~.356~45~15~3~1~1~8~1

3B-Kreigh Young, So., Ole Miss~.375~56~5~3~0~0~10~0

3B-Garrod Creech, Sr., Oak Hill~.329~76~15~5~0~0~21~9

MI-Nate Alston, Sr., Oak Hill~.370~73~18~6~1~3~15~6

MI-Logan Wagner, Jr., Marion~.330~88~22~11~1~1~17~3

UT-Dylan Bragg, Jr., Eastbrook~.362~58~14~2~0~1~18~4

OF-Juquan Reeves, Sr., Marion~.391~87~27~10~2~2~18~6

OF-Anthony Reynolds, Sr., Marion~.388~85~29~4~0~1~15~14

OF-Carson Campbell, Fr., Ole Miss~.349~43~14~2~0~0~4~7

Honorable mention

Eastbrook: Blake Mitchell, Jr., P-OF; Jason Hale, Fr., INF

Madison-Grant: Cole Hasty, So., P-INF

Marion: Travis Metzger, Sr., 1B; Tyras Brown, Sr., DH

Mississinewa: Colin Yoder, So., INF; Cade Campbell, Jr., INF

Oak Hill: Evan Pearce, Fr., OF; Landry Ozmun, Sr., INF