RACHEL — For the first time since North Marion High School opened its doors in 1979, the Huskies are going to Charleston for the state baseball tournament.
North Marion defeated the Frankfort Falcons 9-1 Wednesday and won the Class AA Region 1 championship on the back of a fortuitous first inning and a sterling performance from pitcher Jace Rinehart.
Rinehart struck out six while pitching a complete game, allowing only two hits while collecting two RBI’s and a run of his own on a 3-for-3 day where he was also hit by a pitch.
“[Rinehart] just seemed to be in control, he knew what he was doing out there,” North Marion head coach Vic Seccuro said after the game. “He knew right where he was, he knew what he had to do. I’ve seen him throw a little harder, believe it or not. He didn’t seem to be throwing that hard today but he got the job done, kept them off balance.”
The Huskies got ahead 3-0 after one inning after a walk, a single, and a HBP loaded the bases. Center fielder Cruz Tobin hit into a fielder’s choice before Brock Troy would bring in one with a single to centerfield. Then, a bad throw on a play at the plate after a Mike Harris fly out scored two more.
“That was something we were really wanting to accomplish, and we did that early,” Seccuro said, when asked about his team’s quick start. “Once you get a lead on a team they’ve got to fight back, and when you get a few runs you can gamble a little more and we did gamble a little bit.”
After a quiet second inning, North Marion extended their lead 4-to-0 in the third after a bases loaded walk, drawn by Harris, would bring home Rinehart.
With no outs and the bases still loaded, North Marion had a chance to do more damage still, but a triple-play flipped the script on the inning, as the Falcon’s Brady Whitacre caught a screamer while the North Marion baserunners had begun to advance. Whitacre threw to third for a force out. Then a throw to first for another force made out three.
The Falcons had an opportunity to seize the momentum of the contest after the rare three-out at-bat, but Frankfort subsequently went down in order before North Marion plated three more in the bottom of the fourth.
In that fourth frame, the Falcons looked to have another clean inning after completing a double play with the first two batters faced. But Dylan Runner hit a single into center field. Then Cole Malnick hit one into right. Rinehart drove in Runner with a single of his own and the two-out rally was on.
Two walks by Cruz Tobin and Brock Troy with a wild pitch in between scored two more before Frankfort could stop the bleeding.
Frankfort rarely threatened on Wednesday, getting men into scoring position only a handful of times due to walks and errors from the Huskies’ defense. North Marion’s defense made an impressive play of their own in the fifth, turning a 5-3 double play to get out of one of the rare spots where the Falcons looked to be in position to thin the lead.
Frankfort’s lone run occurred in the top of the sixth as the Falcon’s Andrew Lynch belted a solo home run over the left field fence. With no outs, the deep fly could’ve sparked some offense for Frankfort, but Rinehart would strike out the next five batters to shut down such ideas.
In a best-of-three, North Marion took the series 2-0 after winning the first contest Tuesday 6-to-4. The first game had to be played over two days, as the game, originally set for Tuesday, was delayed to Wednesday after four innings due to inclement weather.
“We had to travel so much, three times we traveled for the sectionals, we had to go twice to Frankfort because of the suspended game,” Seccuro said of the recent schedule. “I don’t know how hard it was on them, but it was really hard on me, hard on the adults.”
“I’m so proud of [the players],” Seccuro said. “The whole season they worked so hard, the coaches worked hard. This game today, they were so focused, it’s all they talked about, and I’m so proud of them.”