Colts in baseball championship game

North Marion celebrates their 4-1 win over Nature Coast in the Class 4A State Baseball semifinals on Monday, May 24, 2021, at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers.

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Posted May 24, 2021 | By Ainslie Lee,

North Marion celebrates their 4-1 win over Nature Coast Tech in the Class 4A State baseball semifinals on Monday, May 24, at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers. [Amanda Whittamore/Special To The Ocala Gazette]

FORT MYERS, Fla. – North Marion High School punched its ticket to the Class 4A state championship game on Monday behind a no-hit, near-complete game gem thrown by North Marion’s ace Wyatt Campbell.

The Colts beat the Nature Coast Tech Sharks 4-1 in the semifinal game at Hammond Stadium. Now, the team will try to bring home the school’s first-ever baseball championship.

But things got off to a shaky start on Monday after Campbell walked the Sharks’ leadoff batter Zeth Rodriguez.

Rodriguez would later score on a fielder’s choice.

From there, Campbell locked it down, going 6.2 innings without allowing a hit and notching eight strikeouts. The only reason he didn’t vie for a complete game was due to FHSAA rules, which limit pitchers under 18 to 105 pitches. Campbell finished with 109 pitches.

Campbell – who’s committed to Lipscomb University in the fall – helped his cause in the fourth inning with an RBI to score North Marion’s senior Jacob Walton. Walton got in scoring position by stealing second after reaching base on a single.

The run put the Colts up 2-1 after sophomore Karson Smith, who was pinch-running for Colts’ catcher Nate Finnewald, plated North Marion’s first run on a wild pitch in the third inning. Finnewald reached after knocking a base hit into shallow right field — the Colts’ first hit of the game.

“That first inning, giving up that run… just really wanted to level out the playing field and get the momentum back,” Campbell said. “It was big for me to calm down and play the game.”

After gaining the one-run lead in the fourth frame, Campbell and North Marion never looked back.

North Marion head coach Dale Hall said Campbell missing out on a complete game, no-hitter was tough.

“Obviously, it’s heartbreaking to have to take Wyatt out in that situation because he’s worked so hard for us since he’s been a Colt. But for us to pull him in that situation is very difficult. It makes it a little bit easier that we have to do it,” said Hall, who is in his 17th year as Colts head coach.

Campbell, who must take a minimum of four days off from the mound, won’t be eligible to pitch in Tuesday’s championship.

North Marion sophomore Karson Smith got the game’s final out facing one batter and throwing six pitches.

In the batter’s box, the Colts were led by Salguero, who went 2-for-3, and senior Jacob Walton, who went 2-for-4.

Walton added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning to give North Marion a two-run advantage.

The Colts added their fourth run of the game in the top of the seventh inning as senior shortstop Deric Fabian sent a pitch into dead centerfield for a sacrifice fly out.

Fabian, who is committed to the University of Florida, leads the team with 13 home runs. His deep fly-out would have likely cleared the fence of a high school field. Hammond Stadium’s centerfield fence is 405 feet from home plate.

“I was more happy that I got the job done, honestly,” Fabian said when asked if he thought the hit was going to leave the yard.

Following the 4-1 win on Monday night, the Colts (21-8) quickly return to action as they are set to battle North Broward Prep (19-10-1) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. for the Class 4A crown.

North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek) reached the title game after defeating Dunedin 7-6 in extra innings on Monday night at Hammond Stadium.

In its title game appearance, North Marion will be playing in just its second championship game across all varsity team sports. The Colts have yet to win a championship in any team sport.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Hall said. “We’ve worked so hard as a program, from the summer through the fall, winter lifting… very few people get to be in this position right here.”

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