DU QUOIN — With one swing of his bat Wednesday, Lukas Shrum made himself the answer to a unique trivia question.
Shrum’s leadoff homer not only propelled Marion’s baseball team to a 9-3 win over Du Quoin in its season opener, it also gave him the distinction of scoring the first points for the Wildcats’ football team and the first run for the baseball team in 26 days’ time.
“I’m not going to lie,” Shrum said. “It felt good.”
Marion coach Marty Manfredo characterized Shrum as a spray hitter who can turn on an inside pitch and hit it hard on a line to left. But Shrum did a lot more than turn on Slade West’s 2-2 fastball. It was a no-doubt clout to left-center, further energizing a team already charged up for its first game since May 2019.
Manfredo, who won the 253rd game of his 13-year coaching stint with the Wildcats, said the team’s first game since a 7-0 sectional semifinal loss to Waterloo in Salem felt weird.
“I’ll tell you one thing: It’s nice to be back,” he said.
It is also nice when you have a pitcher the caliber of Karsten Stotlar. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior sailed through five shutout innings, permitting just three singles and two walks while fanning four.
Stotlar threw just 62 pitches in his stint, 29 in the first three innings. A double play ball in the third helped him through that inning on just three pitches. Another double play, a 4-6-3 off the bat of Owen Bradley in the fifth, quashed a bases-loaded threat and ushered him off the mound with a zero in the run column.
“He knows how to pitch,” Manfredo said of Stotlar, “and I believe he was throwing as hard today as I’ve seen him.”
West nearly matched Stotlar until running into fourth inning trouble, but pitch count marred his outing. West threw 84 pitches and netted just nine outs for all that toil, departing after issuing his fourth and fifth walks to start the fourth.
A throwing error on a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch gave Marion two runs. Chase Austin made it 5-0 later in the inning by clearing the railroad track behind the right field fence with a booming two-run homer.
Stotlar fattened the Wildcats’ lead in the sixth by lofting a two-run homer to right on the first pitch after Ryan Trokey’s RBI double. Nehemiah Goodman capped the team’s four-homer display with a blast over the center field fence in the seventh that traveled around 400 feet.
“I was telling one of my assistants that I don’t know if we’ve hit four homers the last four years,” Manfredo joked.
While the Indians (1-1) couldn’t quite duplicate Tuesday’s season-opening 18-0 rout of Chester, they at least avoided a shutout with three unearned runs in their half of the seventh. Bradley drilled a two-run double to left-center and Owen Cornett slashed an RBI single to left.
“We hung in there and had some chances, and we got some runs at the end,” said Du Quoin coach Kyle Geiger. “But we probably needed to be more aggressive at the plate, and we gave them a big inning with the walks and the error.”
Meanwhile, Shrum and some of his other teammates now make the quick change back into football mode for a Friday night trip to Centralia that could net Marion the South Seven Conference title.
“We’ve had about two weeks of practice,” he said of going from football to baseball – and vice-versa. “Obviously, I’m not making it to practice when I’m playing football on Friday night.”
As Shrum’s first swing of the season showed, he might not need too much practice.