North Marion’s rally falls short as Buchholz wins in extra innings

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Posted February 28, 2023 | By Allen Barney
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

The Buchholz Bobcats (2-1) blew a 6-0 lead before edging out the North Marion Colts (2-1) 9-7 in eight innings on Tuesday night.

Both starting pitchers, Buchholz’s JJ Gardner and North Marion’s Karson Lindsey threw a scoreless first inning to ease into action.

Buchholz’s Nick Taylor scorched a hard groundball single off of the third baseman’s glove and Stuart Ding came around to score on the deflection to give Buchholz a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

In the top of the third, Buchholz applied more pressure as Cooper Collins led off with a double down the left field line and was followed by walks from Anthony Wilkie and Gardner to load the bases with no outs.

Noah Hayse inflicted damage with a two-run double to left center. Following the double, Cedaris Smith and Ding both drove in a run with sacrifice flies to give Buchholz a 5-0 lead.

Garner continued to control the powerful Colts lineup by retiring six hitters in a row. With one out in the top of the fourth, Donny Hiebert launched a solo home run to center field to extend the Buchholz lead to 6-0.

Jake Tompkins finished out the fourth inning on the mound for the Colts with a strikeout and flyout.

Cooper Jones and Lindsey led off the bottom of the fourth for the Colts with back-to-back walks and Tompkins singled to center to load the bases with no outs. Ross Ray and Luis Reyes each hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in two runs for the Colts.

Hiebert drove in a run with a single to center to give Buchholz a 7-2 lead in the top of the fifth.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Colts offense came to life with Troy Guynn leading off with a hit by pitch, Rowan Quartararo reaching on a walk and Jones crushing a three-run home run to left-center to cut the deficit down to 7-5.

With the lead diminishing, Buchholz head coach Ron Brooks pulled Gardner for freshman right-hander Aidan Kastensmidt and he promptly retired the side after giving up two hits.

After a scoreless sixth inning from Tompkins, North Marion leaned on the power as Quartararo and Jones smashed back-to-back solo home runs to right field and left-center to tie the game at seven.

Tompkins threw another scoreless inning in the seventh to set the stage for a possible walk-off win for North Marion.

“Jake Tompkins came in and did a great job. He filled the zone with 72% strikes on his pitches and that’s all we ask out of our pitchers,” North Marion head coach Dale Hall said.

North Marion got the winning run to second after Ray was hit by a pitch and stole second base but was stranded when Perez and Karson Smith flied out and struck out.

Now in extra innings, Buchholz stressed patience at the plate with Smith on the hill. Wilkie led off the top of the eighth with a walk, followed with a double by Gardner. On the hit, Wilkie attempted to score from first base but a perfect relay throw by Guynn got him at the plate for the first out.

Smith and the Colts appeared to be in a good spot after getting a groundout for the second out. Things went awry from there as Karson Smith walked Cedaris Smith and hit Ding with a fastball on the head to load the bases.

With the game tied and the bases loaded with two outs, Kastensmidt came to the plate. After a seven-pitch battle, the freshman drew a walk to bring in the go-ahead run for Buchholz. Pinch-hitter Kai So ripped an RBI single to right to give Buchholz a 9-7 lead. Jonah Garcia came in to pitch for the Colts and got the last out via a groundout.

Kastensmidt continued his fantastic night by retiring Michael Long, Bobby Gottuso and Quartararo in order to nail down the win for Buchholz.

It was a clutch performance by Kastensmidt as it came during his first appearance at the varsity level.

“It was exciting to see his best inning was the last inning. For him as a freshman getting that experience and coming out with composure to close it out after he had been through some adversity was huge,” Brooks said.

Brooks was happy with the tough road win against a quality opponent and thinks it will have lasting effects.

“Anytime you come into North Marion and get a win, it builds your confidence. That was a big win and now we have two more big games this week,” Brooks said.

For Buchholz, Hiebert finished with two hits, a home run and two runs batted in. Cooper and Hayse added two hits each while Taylor collected two runs batted in for the game. Kastensmidt earned the win over four innings of work with five strikeouts.

For North Marion, Hall was pleased with the leadership and resilience of his team to come back from a six-run deficit.

“We have great leadership on this club. Not for one second did our leaders let this team get down and think we were out of it. With what we have, we can explode on offense at any time. We just have to take each pitch as what it is, grind everything out and give ourselves a chance to get back into the game. I credit our team for battling back and making things tough on them,” Hall said.

Cooper Jones led the Colts offense with two home runs and four runs batted in while Quartararo hit a home run and scored three times. Tompkins added two hits and one run and Perez finished with a hit, run and a run batted in.

Buchholz returns to action on Thursday at 7 p.m. when they host The Villages Charter. North Marion gets back on the diamond on Friday at 6 p.m. when they visit Bishop Kenny of Jacksonville.

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