North Marion baseball falls to Preston 5-2 despite pitching efforts

Apr. 16—RACHEL — Playing America's pastime on America's tax day, North Marion Huskies baseball hosted the Preston Knights for a black-and-silver Big X Conference matchup Monday afternoon.

Controlling the game from the very beginning, Preston came up victorious 5-2 despite a well-pitched game from both sides.

"I thought it was a well-played baseball game," North Marion Head Coach Vic Seccuro said. "It was exciting, and I think Preston has a nice team. Give my hats off to Brady McNew, did a nice job. We just couldn't get the bats on the ball like I thought we would. That's basically what it comes down to."

According to Seccuro, North Marion's hitting woes contributed the most to the loss. The Huskies totaled six hits, five batters walked and three reached base on fielder's choices. Two runners were thrown out at home, and North Marion failed to capitalize on multiple opportunities with runners in scoring position.

"I had two runners thrown out at the plate, both close calls," Seccuro said. "That hurts a little bit. We get those two runs, and it's a little different game. We just didn't hit the ball with the opportunities we had runners in scoring position."

North Marion senior Colin Hess started on the mound and received the loss, although he pitched a shorter than normal game because of arm soreness. Hess pitched three innings, faced 16 batters, allowed four runs, six hits, struck out five and walked one.

"I thought I was doing good," Hess said. "They started to pick up on my pitches. They started hitting the gaps, and my arm's starting to hurt. I told Coach [Seccuro] to pull me. I thought it was a solid game. We just got to start hitting."

Hess said his arm has been sore before but never as bad as it got this game. He hopes to come back for North Marion's next game.

Fellow senior Hunter Rhodes relieved Hess and finished the game for North Marion. Rhodes pitched four innings, faced 18 batters, allowed one run, five hits, struck out three and walked two.

"I just knew I had to come in and find a way to shut them down," Rhodes said. "Whether that was striking them out or making them ground out or pop out."

McNew, a senior, got the win as the starting pitcher for Preston. He pitched 5.1 innings, faced 25 batters, allowed one run, five hits, struck out six and walked six. Freshman Tanner Thomas relieved McNew in the sixth and finished the game, allowed one run and one hit with no strikeouts or walks.

McNew started the scoring with a bang, hitting a two-run home run off Hess to score himself and sophomore Slaton Manko for a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

North Marion responded in the bottom of the first. Junior Gavin Owens hit a ground ball to second base, scoring junior Rylan Craig from third on the sacrifice RBI to make it 2-1.

Preston got back the run it lost when sophomore Wyatt Moyer successfully stole home on a pitch. With the run, the Knights extended the lead back to two. The score remained 3-1 at the end of the second after Preston's catcher tagged North Marion sophomore Ryder Bland at home plate to prevent the run.

In the top of the third, Preston junior Caleb Wharton popped out to left field, and junior Lukas McVicker tagged up at third and made it home to make it 4-1.

Hess came off the mound between the top and bottom of the third and felt a lot of discomfort in his elbow. Seccuro pulled Hess and put in Rhodes to start the fourth.

"You can't take a chance on a boy's arm," Seccuro said. "Most kids will grunt it out, but he was sore, and we knew we had to get him out. You can't leave him in there and take a chance."

After two runless innings by both teams, Preston scored the its final run of the game in the top of the sixth. McNew's line drive down third landed deep in left field to score Thomas and make it 5-1 for the Knights.

North Marion had two more opportunities to score runs and comeback. Junior Logan McCarthy batted in senior Captain Weekly on a fielder's choice to make it 5-2 at the end of six innings.

Rhodes kept the top of the seventh short, facing three batters, striking out two and letting his defense get the easy short to first out as the Huskies needed three runs to tie in the bottom of the seventh. Unfortunately, it was three up, three down for North Marion, ending the game in seven innings.

North Marion's struggles continue, and with regionals approaching in less than a month, a turnaround has to happen. Seccuro said it's been done before. The 1990 team started the season 3-13 and ran the gauntlet to win the state title.

"We won 13 in a row," Seccuro said. "I never give up on kids because you don't know what [they can do]. And they're playing well enough that can happen. You can't give up on them because the other team could get in a rut and we could play well and start winning some games. That's how it takes off sometimes."

The Huskies get a day off before traveling to Philip Barbour to face a tough Colts team, according to Seccuro. Sophomore Jackson Waskis will get the start for the Huskies. Game starts at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548