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Marion earns win over Class A No. 10 Northfield

GIANTS: Marion starting pitcher Tra Cox delivers a pitch in the second inning of the Giants' 9-6 win over Northfield Tuesday evening at Art Caldwell Field.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

The effects of a cold, dreary day and the lack of much outdoor practice time could be seen in both the Marion and Northfield baseball teams Tuesday evening on the Giants' Art Caldwell Field.

The Giants and Class A No. 10 Norsemen were each playing just their third games of the season, and the lack of practice repetitions showed up for both teams at times on defense and on the pitcher's mound.

But it was Marion who made fewer mistakes, had more timely hits and ultimately made two big double plays in a 9-6 win over Northfield.  

"It was a good win," said Marion coach Gabe Wagner. "It's been a rough couple weeks with the weather, we haven't got a lot of work outdoors so we're going to be rusty in some aspects. It was a great win for us. Clean up some defensive mistakes and we win that game 9-1 or 9-2."

The first three batters in Northfield's lineup reached base to start the game against Marion starting pitcher Tra Cox, but the Norsemen would only plate one run on an RBI hit by starting pitcher Blake Harner.

Marion started its half of the first almost identically, but with much better results. 

Harner surrendered a pair of hits around an error, the walked Giants clean up hitter Tyras Brown forcing in the tying run. A second Marion run scored on a wild pitch before Travis Metzger laced a two-RBI single putting Marion on top, 4-1 after the first inning.

Neither team scored in the second and both added a single run in the third before the Norsemen scored two in the fourth without getting a base hit. Cox recorded two of his four walks, the Giants made two of their four errors and Northfield pulled within, 5-4.

Northfield put runners on base in every inning, stranding 13 for the game, and the lack of timely hitting was just one point of contention for Norse coach Clint Davis.

"(Marion) scored nine runs and didn't have anything past a single, that's on us," Davis said. "That's not on them hitting the ball all over the ball park. That's on us being sloppy, throwing balls away and those kinds of things.

"I thought our at bats were good. We saw a lot of pitches and we had runners on in every inning," he added. "We didn't capitalize a couple times early and that comes back to bite you."

The Giants added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth, scoring three runs on just one hit but taking advantage of three Northfield errors. Marion's first two hitters reached on errors, Logan Wagner drew a one-out walk and Brown laced a single to center to plate two Giants.

Ethan Dixon came out of Marion's bullpen to relieve Cox in the fifth and instantly found himself in hot water by walking the first three batters he faced. However, Marion first baseman Dylan Meyer made the defensive play of the game by snaring a line drive off the bat of Northfield's Clayton Tomlinson then spinning and beating the Norse runner back to first for an unassisted double play.

Dixon then struck out Cole Rosen to strand two more Northfield runners and preserve the Giants' 8-4 lead.

Marion scored its final run in the fifth, again without the benefit of a hit. Dre Aguilar walked, moved to second when Anthony Reynolds was hit by pitch from Northfield reliever Nate Drancik, then scored on back-to-back wild pitches.

Dixon recorded his second strikeout to start the top of the sixth, but gave up a base hit to Jared Vigar before walking Harner and Matt Coe to load the bases. 

Broc Allgood took the ball for Marion and got the second out with a strikeout, but an errant throw from third base after a Drancik grounder allowed two Northfield runners to score and cut the Giants' lead to 9-6.

Allgood finished the frame with a ground out to second. Then after allowing a single to start the seventh, got a well turned 6-4-3 double play and a fly out to right field to end the game.

Cox earned the win for the Giants, allowing eight hits, four earned runs and recording seven strikeouts and four walks. Marion pitchers issued 10 walks to go along with four errors made by their defense. 

"Ethan (Dixon) is struggling a little bit with some mechanical issues. He's not being consistent with his delivery, but we'll work on that," Wagner said. "It's been rough getting some time outside on the mound.

"Tra looked pretty good. Broc came in and threw strikes which is what we want him to do," he added. "That was Broc's first time on the mound this year so we wanted to get him a couple of innings to get his feet wet and be ready to go."

Anthony Reynolds had a pair of hits and scored twice for Marion while Aguilar and Logan Wagner each scored twice.

Harner had five strikeouts and allowed five hits in his four innings on the mound for Northfield, but only four of the eight runs he gave up were earned. He also walked four Marion batters. 

Vigar finished with three hits for the Norse, Chance Hartman had two and Rosen one.

Neither team recorded and extra-base hit.  

"We've got to sure some things up defensively and we've got to get ahead of batters on the mound," Davis said. "Blake (Harner) is our best (pitcher) physically, but he's got to start throwing more strikes. He gets in a little hurry when runners get on and he's got to be more of a bulldog.

"Any game on our schedule we've got a chance to win, but we can also lose to anybody on the schedule," he added. "We proved that tonight the way we played in a couple of innings."

Marion (2-1) hosts Wabash at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Northfield (1-2) ventures back into Grant County Thursday to face Eastbrook at 5 p.m.