CENTRALIA — The Marion Wildcats (21-6) shut out the Mount Vernon Rams (22-14) 2-0 in a combined no-hitter on Saturday to clinch the Class 3A Centralia regional championship.
Junior Cavan Cameron and senior Christian Burgrabe shut down Mount Vernon’s offensive attack with great defensive help behind them. Cameron started for the Wildcats and lasted five innings before Burgrabe recorded the last six outs to earn the save.
It was a tremendous pitching battle between Cameron and opposing pitcher Blake Dees. The game was scoreless in the sixth inning when Marion senior D.J. Tucker scored Ryan Trokey on a bloop single over the head of shortstop Billy Beckham in shallow left-center field.
“There was nothing Beckham could have done on that hit by Tucker,” said Marion coach Marty Manfredo. “I mean he made a phenomenal play to try and get to the ball.”
Dees was forced to exit following the RBI base hit by Tucker, as Mount Vernon fans gave Dees a well-earned ovation on his way back to the dugout. The right-hander allowed four hits and two runs over five and two-thirds innings, striking out five.
Noah Mofield capped off the sixth inning with a base hit up the middle to score Mitchell Jackson from third and give Marion a 2-0 lead.
Mount Vernon threatened early by loading the bases in the first inning. The Rams were able to take advantage of 10 consecutive balls thrown by Cameron and load the bases with one out. Trokey showed quick instincts from the catcher position with a pickoff throw to Jackson at first base to get Charley Allen for the second out. Cameron then struck out Carson Wright to avoid trouble and get out of the opening frame.
Mount Vernon threatened again in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Two leadoff walks by Cameron and an error by Jackson at first base put all the momentum of a scoreless game in the hands of the Rams. Burgrabe replaced Cameron on the mound and Burgrabe got Parker Wielt to hit a fly ball out to Mofield in left field. Runners tagged up and Luke Willis looked like he scored the Rams first run of the game. That was until umpires ruled that Willis had left the bag at third too early, and Marion escaped the inning without allowing a single run.
“The umpire felt like (Willis) left early … I was watching and I was a little disappointed because I thought he stayed on the bag too long,” said Mount Vernon coach Tim Holloway. “As we all know, that’s a part of baseball and you don’t get every call. It was unfortunate because we’d be leading 1-0 and then it’s a different game. That one hurts … no doubt. That’s a tough call to make unless you are 100 percent sure, and the umpire felt like he was and I felt differently, but I’m not the umpire.”
Had Willis not been called out on the sacrifice fly, Mount Vernon would have led without recording a hit.
“We didn’t do enough offensively to get a win,” said Holloway. “We pitched well and played good defense, but it was a really tough day offensively for us.”
In a game where both offenses struggled early, Tucker was finally able to breakthrough with the RBI hit in the sixth for Marion. The senior really showed his skill set at third base defensively, and saved his best for last with a diving play to record the first out of the final inning.
“I was just ready for this game,” said Tucker. “I want to play for my team and I was going to make every play behind my pitchers.”
Cameron and Burgrabe pitched to contact and combined for four strikeouts.
“That second run we tacked on gave me a lot of insurance on the mound,” said Burgrabe. “I knew that if we got a second run with my defense behind me we’d win.”
Marion advances to the Salem Sectional to face the Waterloo Bulldogs at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday.