By Chris Parker
Marionville started district play on May 15 as the No. 3 seed in Class 2 District 7.
The odds were against the Comets to even make it to a district title game much less a state title game.
Defying odds and expectations became a natural function for the Marionville baseball team over the past three weeks.
The Class 2 state championship game was no different. The Comets came back from a 6-0 third-inning deficit to win the program’s first state championship 8-7 over East Buchanan in walk-off fashion.
“We were the three seed in our district and the boys took that personally. They thought they should have been the one, so we’ve just had to be battlers all year. I mean, we’ve had to just fight and fight and fight. We’ve been the underdog in almost every game and I still don’t understand why,” Marionville head coach Alex Weathermon said. “But you know, it really paid off for us, so it honestly ended up being a blessing. Just being able to figure out how to become tougher competitors all throughout the postseason.”
Marionville trailed 5-0 to Putnam County after three complete innings Monday in the semifinal. Then Cale Clark came in to pitch and threw up zeroes for 4 1/3 innings while the offense scored eight unanswered runs.
The deficit was one run bigger on Tuesday. East Buchanan scored one run in the first inning, three in the second inning and two in the third inning.
Sophomore Blane Young, who had thrown just 14 2/3 innings on the season coming into the game, had to come in during the third inning to relieve starting pitcher Wyley Brown. Young allowed one inherited runner to score, but that was all the damage in the third.
Marionville entered the dugout with a 6-0 deficit. One thing the Comets did not have was doubt in their ability to mount a comeback.
“Never a doubt. That’s the part of having great teammates. They’re never out of the game. They’re always ready for any obstacle that you throw at them,” junior Lake High said.
“We know that if we do our job and do what we can do (then) we’re going to get the job done,” Young said. “It takes us a little bit to settle in, but we come out and get the job done.”
Marionville got the job done in a big way in the bottom of the third inning.
Cale Clark led off with a walk followed by a Jordan Williams single up the middle to move Clark to third. After a strikeout, Williams advanced to second on a steal giving Marionville runners at second and third with one out. Young then walked to load the bases. Jacob Davis brought home two runners with a single to left center. After Young and Davis advanced to second on a balk with two outs, Jacksen Smith singled up the middle to score two more runs while he advanced to second on the throw. Brown then tripled to right field to get Marionville back within one at 6-5.
Young went back to the hill and went to work. He shut down East Buchanan in the fourth and fifth innings allowing no runs, which gave the Comets a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Kyle Brattin drew a walk and Smith was hit by a pitch with one out in the fifth inning. Both players moved up on wild pitches. After a strikeout, Marionville had two outs with runners on second and third. It looked like the Comets might come up empty until two wild pitches scored two runs to give Marionville its first lead at 7-6 after five innings.
East Buchanan answered back in the bottom of the inning tying the game back up on an RBI single after a triple.
Young ended the inning with a nice pick off at first base.
Marionville failed to score in the sixth inning, which sent Young back to the mound needing yet another shutdown frame. He allowed two baserunners on walks, but the defense stepped up. Brattin caught the first out in centerfield. He threw to try and pick off a runner who had strayed away from the first base bag, but overthrew the first baseman. The ball went all the way to the East Buchanan dugout fence. The East Buchanan runner tried to take second but was gunned down to make it a double play. Young induced a fly out to right to end the inning.
For the game, Young went 4 2/3 innings allowing one earned run with one strikeout. He induced 10 fly outs in the 19 batters he faced. Those 4 2/3 innings accounted for 24% of his total innings on the mound for the 2021 season.
“He (Young) just did a great job keeping them off balance up. That’s a sophomore who just wants to go out and get the job done and win. And he just found a way,” Weathermon said. “We didn’t have any crazy game plan. They (East Buchanan) are a good baseball team. They’re going to put the ball in play. Let’s do our best to control what we can control, and Blane did just that. He did a phenomenal job.”
“I just tried to come in and throw strikes. I just came out and tried to let the defense do the work, and put the most trust in my team as I could,” Young said. “I’ve been throwing to contact all year and just letting our defense do the work. They’ve put in all the work they needed to and they just come out and they get the job done.”
Young’s work on the mound was done. It was now time for the offense to hold up its end of the bargain in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Smith was hit by a pitch to open the inning followed by a walk to Brown to give Marionville two on with no outs. Smith got caught in a rundown trying to steal third to give Marionville one out with Brown advancing to second. Lake High then doubled to center. Once at second base, he stood on the bag and stared into his dugout as if sending a message.
“That was just ‘we got this’. (There is) no reason to get out of our minds here. We’ve been here, done this before.”
An intentional walk to Clark loaded the bases. Brown was cut down at home by the East Buchanan second baseman on a groundout by Williams. Marionville still had the bases loaded with two outs.
High was now standing on third base after the groundout.
It was a dream scenario for Duane Hammonds stepping to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the final half inning of a state championship game.
But Marionville baseball doesn’t do things in the manner you would expect.
The game would be won not on the strength of Hammonds’ bat but on the speed of High’s legs. East Buchanan unleashed yet another wild pitch allowing High to scamper home and score Marionville’s third run on a wild pitch. This one gave the Comets the first state baseball championship in program history.
“It means everything. I’ve played with all these guys since I was young, and that’s the only dream you have whenever you’re playing young,” High said. “(You have) that one goal to reach the state championship and be a state champion.”
The championship is special to Weathermon in many ways. He is a Marionville graduate who played baseball for the Comets. Many of his players were in middle school when he last put on the Marionville uniform.
“It means the absolute world. I love the community in Marionville. They’ve never been anything but supportive of me. It means the world. I grew up playing down at those parks,” Weathermon said. “I think this is going to make the community of Marionville start to really care about baseball, which is just so awesome to me and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Marionville had four seniors on the roster in Brattin, Hammonds, Williams and Brady Morgan.
The Comets are set to return six starters and 14 total players from this year’s championship squad, so don’t expect them to fly under anybody’s radar in 2022.
“Marionville baseball is on the map now. This is awesome,” Weathermon said. “I just can’t wait to go and celebrate.”
Marionville finishes the season 23-6 overall.