North Marion tops Nature Coast Tech

Colts score on error to win regional quarterfinal.

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Posted May 9, 2023 | By Mark Pinson
Special to The Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

North Marion’s Tucker Jones scored the game’s only run on a two-out throwing error by the Nature Coast second baseman, and senior hurlers Karson Lindsey and Hunter Jones combined on a two-hit shutout, as the Colts eased past the Sharks by a score of 1-0 in Tuesday night’s Class 4A-Region 2 quarterfinal.

Nature Coast Tech (Brooksville), which was the eighth seed, ends the season with a record of 15-10-1.

The hard-fought win improved North Marion, the top seed, to an impressive 23-5 overall. The Colts will host Hernando on Friday night in a regional semifinal.

“I couldn’t be happier with the performance of Karson Lindsey tonight,” said North Marion coach Dale Hall. “He’s a competitor and got himself out of a lot of tough situations. I thought he pitched well but they had some good at-bats against him and were able to get some guys on. But he stepped up to the moment and made some big pitches when he needed to. We could have sent Karson back out there, but I thought bringing in Hunter was the best opportunity to win a ball game. I’m extremely happy with the play of Bobby Gottuso behind home plate, he had a lot of good blocks in key situations. Hernando is a talented ball club and we’ve got two days of preparation to get ready for Friday night.”

Neither team could muster any kind of offense as Lindsey, a crafty left-hander with a good curveball that he used to record 10 strikeouts, escaped a jam in the top of the second inning when Nature Coast had runners on first and second base and no outs. But Lindsey struck out two batters and picked a pinch-runner off first base to end the threat by the Sharks.

North Marion, which managed only two hits, struggled against Nature Coast senior left-hander Gavin McMurdo, who also utilized a wicked curveball to keep the Colts’ hitters off-balance.

The Sharks wasted a leadoff double in the top of the fifth inning by Dylan Palmer as Lindsey, a Georgia State commit, bore down to strike out three of the next four batters to keep the game scoreless.

In the bottom of the frame, McMurdo hit Tucker Jones and Troy Guynn with one out. A tailor-made, double-play ground ball was hit to the Sharks’ shortstop who flipped to second for the force out, but a wild throw allowed Jones to score from second base to give the Colts a tenuous 1-0 lead.

Nature Coast, which had four hits, went down in order in the top of the sixth inning as Lindsey finished his night’s work with a pair of strikeouts.

Jones, a University of Florida commit, came on in relief in the top of the seventh inning. The hard-throwing right-hander induced a pair of weak ground ball outs and recorded a strikeout to seal the victory for the Colts.

North Marion, which qualified for the state Final Four in 2021, but missed the playoffs last year, is focused on making the most of this postseason opportunity.

“This has been a good bounce-back season for us,” coach Hall said. “We’ve swung it well this year and played some great baseball. But in the playoffs, you have to pitch it, play defense and get some timely hits.”

First pitch for Friday night’s home game against Hernando is set for 7 p.m.

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