FORTVILLE — After their dreams of being conference champions were dashed last week, the Mt. Vernon baseball team began its quest for a sectional crown.
Those dreams, too, were cut short on Tuesday night as the Marauders fell to conference foe Pendleton Heights 3-2.
Dominant pitching from the Marauders’ Zach Spears kept the Arabians (20-9) off the board early. He made quick work of the Pendleton Heights hitters, who entered the game batting .343 as a team.
“He did a great job tonight,” Mt. Vernon head coach Ryan Carr said. “He’s been a horse for us all season, he’s thrown 100-plus pitches for us in some games and to see the way that he’s grown was special.”
Spears ran into a little trouble in the top of third, giving up his first hit of the game. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runner into scoring position but the Arabians failed to score.
They finally managed to sneak a few hits past Spears in the fourth inning and some aggressive base running gave them their first score of the inning. Pendleton Heights attempted to tally on another run, but got a little too greedy as second basemen Christian Smith threw out the runner at home.
The Marauders’ bats struggled to find their groove throughout the game. Arabians sophomore pitcher Tanner Holloway pitched a gem, only giving up one hit through the first five innings. The Marauders were making contact but were not able to find the gaps.
“We hit the ball really hard right at guys early in the game,” Carr stated. “Hits were hard to come by on both sides and if we hit the ball in a different spot on the bat then maybe those balls find gaps.”
Continuing to find the sweet spot, the Arabians tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning. A hard-hit single brought in the first run of the inning for Pendleton Heights.
Some poor base running at first kept the Arabians from scoring another, yet, they would garner another score in the inning after some indecision from the Marauders (15-13) to make it 3-0 after six.
However, Noah Powell and the Marauders would respond in the bottom half of the inning.
Powell led off for the Marauders with a stand-up triple to give them their first hit of the game since the second inning. Spears was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with Smith due up.
A sacrifice fly by Smith to deep centerfield brought home Powell for their first run of the game. The Marauders earned another run with a Michael Cripe RBI double to bring in Spears.
With momentum in their favor it seemed unfair for mother nature to strike and put the game on hold midway through the seventh inning.
Spears benefited from the delay and was able to work quickly to get the final Arabian batter out of the game. He would finish the day with seven strikeouts, gave up three runs off of eight hits in his final game in a Marauder uniform.
“From everything that I had heard he was a scout’s dream” Carr reflected on Spears. “It’s been such a privilege in my first year to have a guy like him to put out on the mound.”
“I think he might have spoiled me because next year I’m going to be wondering, ‘Where’s Spears?'” Carr said jokingly.
The delay also helped out Pendleton Heights closer Quentin Miller, who smoked the ball right past the first two Marauder batters.
Tyler Franklin did manage a hit off of Miller after hitting five balls foul in a 1-2 count. He hustled his way down the first-base line and was able to reach to give the Marauders some life. Though that wouldn’t last long as Powell popped up to right field to end the game.
Even though the Marauders were unable to achieve their goal of winning conference and had their postseason cut short, coach Carr would not call this season a disappointment.
“With the way this team played this year, I’m pretty happy,” Carr said. “We got so much experience with our young guys and we’re just going to build on the way that we played this year.”