MARION — Marty Manfredo joked after Tuesday’s game that his next stop might be the riverboat.
While the Marion baseball coach might not have followed through on that prediction, everything the Wildcats did in their South Seven Conference clash with Carbondale came up sevens.
Scoring four runs without getting a ball out of the infield in the first inning, Marion never looked back in a 10-0, five-inning rout at the Crisp Complex.
Cavan Cameron fired a two-hit shutout and fanned seven to improve to 5-0, while leadoff hitter Austin Palmer reached base three times and supplied a three-run double that capped a four-run third inning. The Wildcats (10-3, 3-1) collected seven hits, drew four walks and ran the bases aggressively.
“This was probably the last thing I thought would happen,” Manfredo said. “It seemed like everything went our way today. Every ball that was hit into the wind was just out of their reach, and every checked swing we hit seemed to find a hole. A lot of luck was involved today. It really was.”
Manfredo’s analysis aside, Marion was simply the better team in every single aspect. It took only two batters for the die to be cast. Vinny Rushing drilled a Cameron pitch to deep center, but Drake Gravatt ran it down, making a tumbling catch to deny Rushing extra bases.
Making the catch even more impressive was that Gravatt battled a gusting wind blowing out towards left field. Manfredo instructed his outfielders to take their first step back on every fly ball, mindful of the wind’s strength.
“You can see those flags blowing out at what, 20-25 miles per hour? So we played a little deeper,” Manfredo said.
While the Wildcats were flawless in the field, the Terriers (7-5, 3-1) were 180 degrees removed. Hard-throwing righthander Bodie Jones displayed a late-moving fastball and a curveball with tremendous tilt, but didn’t have pinpoint control or a defense behind him.
A leadoff walk to Palmer was an ominous start. Palmer stole second and reached third on a throwing error as no one covered second. Then the real problems began defensively.
A grounder to short off Gravatt’s bat turned into a fielder’s choice when a throw behind the runner at third wasn’t in time. Josh Griffin followed with a looping one-hopper towards second that could have been a forceout, a simple 4-3 out with an RBI or a 4-6-3 double play.
It instead became option D: A wild throw home for a two-base error that scored Marion’s first run. That led to Jake Welch’s groundout to short that cashed in two runs. Griffin never hesitated around third and easily beat the throw home from first.
A first-and-third double steal – courtesy runner Parker Holland swiped home and knocked the ball out of the catcher’s glove for the inning’s third error – capped the rally that shaped the game for both teams.
“We made mistakes we don’t normally make,” Carbondale coach Scott Hankey said. “Tip your cap to Marion because they kicked our butts, but whenever you give a team eight extra outs, they’re going to take advantage. And they did.”
The Wildcats’ four-run third started with a dropped fly ball in right and climaxed when the wind took Palmer’s fly ball to left-center and rode it just beyond center fielder Justin Massingale, making it 8-0. Two more runs in the fifth, the last scoring on the Terriers’ sixth error of the day, sent the teams to the handshake line after just 89 minutes.
Hankey took some of the blame for Carbondale’s performance.
“I think I got them a little too fired up,” he said. “I told them it’s the biggest game we’ve played to this point. It’s not a make-or-break game, but I think they were a little bit too anxious. We just didn’t make plays we should have made in certain spots.”