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Giants rally back to tie Norwell

GIANT OUT: Marion catcher AJ Mitchener prepares to put a tag on a Norwell runner Wednesday evening on Art Caldwell Field. The Giants and Knights played to a 7-7 tie after the game was called in the top of the eighth inning because of darkness.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

On a day when strikes were hard to come by, the Marion Giants baseball team managed to avoid a loss Wednesday and send a message to a sectional opponent.

Giants pitchers issued nine walks and hit five batters but rallied in the sixth inning to forge a 7-all tie with Norwell, which is how the game at Art Caldwell Field ended when it was called with two outs in the top of the eighth inning because of darkness.

“Never want a tie,” Marion coach Mark Fagan said. “The main thing, though, is come out here and have fun and get the kids motivated to work like that. “Yeah, we’re having fun.”

Marion is 4-1-2 and showed progress against Norwell, which has been a Class 3A Top 10-ranked team the previous two years. The Knights had major graduation losses from last year’s 17-8 sectional runner-up team but came into Wednesday’s game with a 3-0 record.

“They’re a good ball club over there,” Fagan said of Norwell, “and if we can compete with them, then we have an opportunity to do something in the (state) tournament.”

Marion tied the game in the sixth without benefit of a hit, something in scarce supply the entire game. Broc Allgood, pinch-hitter D’Angelo Jones and Anthony Reynolds each drew walks to load the bases with no outs. Logan Wagner then lifted a flyball to the outfield to drive home Allgood and make it 7-6, with Jones advancing to third base on the play.

Jones’ heads up baserunning was rewarded when Norwell catcher Korbyn Costello dropped the ball after a called third strike on Dylan Meyer. Jones scampered home with the tying run and the Giants had runners on second and third with one out, but Tyras Brown struck out and A.J. Mitchener grounded out to end the inning.

“We’re always trying to work hard, always trying to compete no matter who we’re playing and no matter who’s pitching,” Meyer said. “We’re always going out there to compete.”

Kyree Simmons relieved starter Riley Russell with two outs in the fifth and prevented further damage after Norwell scored four runs and opened a 7-5 advantage. The senior left-hander had coaxed two groundouts in the eighth but then hit a batter and walked another.

Simmons was pitching to Norwell’s Caden Mann when the home plate umpire suddenly called the game. The umpire had been unable to see the pitch and decided it was too dark to continue playing.

“That’s what happens when you run into spring baseball,” Fagan said. “I sure wish we could of had one more inning - lights would have been nice. But all in all, I was happy with the play. It was a sectional team we were playing against and we didn’t show them a lot, but we showed them that we can compete with them.”

Russell, a junior right-hander, was making his first varsity start on the mound and had pitched limited innings last year. He had control issues and walked eight batters and hit four but surrendered just three hits before tiring in the fifth.

“He came out and pitched well,” Fagan said of Russell, “and Kyree came in at the end and I was happy with the way he threw. (Russell) got a little tired and being in a spring sport we don’t have the opportunity to get outside and condition like we should. But all in all, he was strong and I was happy with the performance that he put out today.”

Marion had four hits and three occurred in the second inning from Mitchener, Travis Metzger and Maliki Newsom leading to the Giants’ first run. Wagner had the other hit leading off the third and eventually scored on a fielding error that tied it 2-all.

But Marion scored three runs in the fourth without benefit of a hit to lead 5-3 and took advantage of two Norwell walks and three errors. Norwell finished with four errors and three pitchers issued eight walks.

Defense rescued the Giants several times, especially in the third when they turned a pitcher-to-first baseman-to-catcher double play. First baseman Meyer saw the Norwell baserunner taking off from third base and delivered a strike on the relay throw to catcher Mitchener.

“We strive to make no errors because errors put us in a hole,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to keep the game close when we’re not hitting. But if we hit well we can stay in any ball game. We can hit with anybody.”

Marion plays at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Wabash and then has a doubleheader Saturday at Peru.