On Youth Night at the Marion High School doubleheader Monday, veteran Indians skipper Steve Fish may have wished some of the excited tykes recognized between games could have suited up on his own team.
For a seasoned squad trying to tie the school record for victories, the listless home team instead played like a bunch of Little Leaguers in losing to Maquoketa, 4-3 and 10-2.
The frustrated Fish had no excuses and no explanation.
“It’s very disappointing at this time of the year to have played like we played tonight,” he said. “We didn’t play with any energy. We didn’t execute. And it all came back to bite us.
“The kids played like they were dead tired. But we played better in 100-degree heat last week than we did on a perfect night tonight.”
Marion’s offense for the most part was sluggish, the pitching lackluster and the defense horrendous. In the two games, the Indians committed seven errors, but Fish said it could have been more without some generous scorekeeping.
And a platoon of pitchers threw enough wild pitches to last a season.
“It became contagious,” the coach said of the hapless performance. “And, by the way,” he added, “I didn’t do a very good job of coaching, either.”
It didn’t start out badly for Marion, 27-12, two shy of the season win mark. Christian Stekl singled with one out in the bottom of the first, stole second and scored on a sharp hit to left by Addison Johnson.
In what was to become a pattern, however, Maquoketa (25-12, 20-10) tied it in its next at-bat with two hits in an inning that included a dropped fly ball and a flubbed force play.
Cardinal pitcher Ryan Helton, who bamboozled the Indians all night with curveballs and changeups, added another run in the fourth on a line drive homer off the scoreboard in left field.
Marion showed some spark in the bottom of the fourth, picking up two runs on a single by Alex Charipar and consecutive doubles from Logan Fuller and Mitch Wagner.
But the Cardinals came right back to score two more without getting the ball out of the infield.
Marion southpaw Cale Cannoy relieved starter Levi Lochner and recorded five strikeouts over the final three innings, but by that time the damage was done.
“We started out with a little bit of life,” Indian senior catcher Johnson said. “But all night there was no energy in the dugout or on the field. Everyone played tired and not in their game today.”
Johnson tried every which way to control his pitchers. But, he said, “We had lots of balls in the dirt, too many walks and way too many runners.”
In the nightcap, for instance, Marion starter Josh Davila was chased after giving up a run on two hits in the opening inning and then making three wild pitches and a throwing error to first base in the second inning without getting anyone out.
Steckl, David Kuhn and Nick Connelly each threw two innings of relief for the Indians, but all of them were plagued by sloppy defensive play.
Maquoketa built an 8-0 lead before Marion finally rallied for two runs in the bottom of the sixth with a double by Johnson and a single by Sean McGarvey.
The Cardinals tacked on two in the seventh to add salt to the Indians’ wounds.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Fish said when it was over.
With the regular season concluded, his team now prepares to face Clear Creek Amana Friday at Solon to open Class 3A district tournament play.
“We’ll have three hard days of practice. It was hard medicine to take tonight, but maybe it was what we needed," Fish said.
“As I told the kids, ‘You’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are.’ Hopefully, this will motivate us.”
Marion finished with a 21-9 record in the Wamac Conference.
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