CARBONDALE — Marion junior southpaw Karsten Stotlar should have been arrested Friday for animal cruelty after abusing the Waterloo Bulldogs with a mix of darting fastballs, change ups and curves, leading the Wildcats to a 3-0 shutout win in the opening round of the Class 3A regional tournament at Itchy Jones Stadium in Carbondale.
With the win, Marion improves to 14-4 and will play the winner of Carbondale/Mount Vernon Monday in the regional title match. Waterloo finishes its season at 6-23.
Stotlar worked a nearly flawless 6 1/3 innings, allowing no runs on three hits with only one walk to go with 11 punchouts before giving way to closer Trevor Jackson. Stotlar was approaching the maximum pitch count of 115 in the seventh, which prompted his removal and perhaps prevented him from a complete-game shutout.
Stotlar was pleased with his performance.
"My two-seamer and change...really everything was working well today," Stotlar said. "I attacked the hitters. It all came together for me."
Stotlar added that the Wildcats appear to be jelling at the right time, especially at the plate.
"We seem to be squaring balls up a lot more now than we did early in the season," he said.
Veteran Marion head coach Marty Manfredo spoke highly of Stotlar's mound effort.
"Karsten was really on today. I thought he threw really well," Manfredo said. "It's hot on this turf and he got loosened up early. After the first inning, Karsten told me that he felt like he was in a groove. And he was.
"Give Waterloo credit, though. They grinded out some at bats," Manfredo said. "He would get them down 0-2 in the count and they would battle back to 2-2 or 3-2 before he could put them away, which ran his pitch count up. Karsten was able to get us into the seventh before Trevor came in and shut the door. We'll take it. It was a nice opening (postseason) win."
Manfredo added that while Stotlar's curve wasn't as sharp as in other outings, his change up was very good.
"They made contact on it, but it was off the end of the bat. They never barreled it up. We always tell our pitchers to work fast, change speeds and throw strikes. And Karsten was able to do all three."
Marion scored all the runs it would need in the bottom half of the second inning.
Ryan Trokey lined a one-out single off the glove of a sliding left fielder Alex Delunas. Trace Bittle followed with a ground-rule double to left center, advancing runners to second and third. Nehemiah Goodman struck out, but the ball was in the dirt and catcher Bryce Reese fired the ball to first to retire Goodman for the second out. Throwing caution to the wind, Trokey bolted for the plate and slid under the relay throw home from first baseman Marcus Heusohn to Reese.
Gavin Plant then followed with an RBI single, driving in Bittle for a 2-0 lead.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the sixth when the Wildcats tacked on an insurance run. Jackson scorched a leadoff triple that missed clearing the left field wall by a few inches. Stotlar singled him home.
Waterloo's best scoring opportunity came in the fourth inning.
Evan Davis drew a leadoff walk. Pitcher Logan Hopfinger singled. A double steal advanced the runners to second and third with nobody out, but Stotlar dug deep and struck out the next three batters — Noah Meyers, Reese and pinch hitter Jack McFarlane.
Hopfinger, who took the loss, worked six innings for the Bulldogs. He surrendered three runs on seven hits. He also struck out five and walked none.
Bulldogs head coach Mark Vogel said lack of timely hitting was a big factor in Friday's loss.
"That's really been our biggest struggle all spring," he said. We've had a hard time at home plate, and it showed up again today. Pitching and defense have been pretty good for the most part."
Vogel also tipped his cap to Stotlar.
"He did a good job of mixing pitches. He had good control on the outer half of the plate and threw a good ballgame."