North Marion falls short in state championship
North Marion plays North Broward Prep in the Class 4A State Baseball Championship on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers. North Broward Prep won the game 8-4.
Momentum is big in baseball.
North Marion seniors Deric Fabian and Jacob Walton both touched on the importance of momentum being in your favor following the North Marion Colts’ semifinal win on Monday night.
“Momentum can win you a lot of baseball games,” Walton said Monday.
But come Tuesday, the Colts found themselves on the wayside of a momentum swing as the North Broward Prep Eagles put together a five-run rally in the fifth inning to win the Class 4A state championship 8-4.
Through the opening four innings of play, the Colts drew the upper hand.
Sophomore Jacob Gromberg, the starting pitcher for North Broward Prep during Tuesday night’s title game, struggled early. The lefty walked the bases full in the top of the first inning with just one out, giving North Marion senior Wyatt Campbell an opportunity to capitalize.
Campbell, who pitched a near-complete game no-hitter in the semifinal, cracked a two-RBI stand-up double to score seniors Gavin Miller and Eli Garcia and give the Colts a two-run lead in the first inning.
North Marion sophomore Hunter Jones started his outing on the mound with a five at-bat first inning, forcing two groundouts, allowing a base hit and giving up a walk before striking out North Broward Prep senior centerfielder, Ty Richman to retire the side.
In the top of the second, Gromberg led off with another free pass after hitting North Marion senior first baseman Connor Burks with a pitch. But a strikeout tossed to senior Donny Salguero and a pair of outs by Miller and Garcia, left Burks stranded.
In the Eagles’ second trip to the plate, freshman third baseman Gian De Castro roped a leadoff triple down the first baseline to put a runner on the doorstep with no outs. De Castro was later driven home by a sacrifice groundout off the bat of North Broward Prep’s senior catcher Dylan Runsdorf to cut the Colts’ lead to 2-1.
Following the Eagles’ one-run inning, the Colts came storming back in the top of the third.
After Fabian, North Marion’s senior shortstop and Florida Gators commit, sent a pop out to centerfield, Walton, the Colts’ designated hitter, sent a grounder down the third baseline for a base hit.
According to North Marion head coach Dale Hall, Walton, who was recruited by Santa Fe College as a pitcher, put off Tommy John surgery to be a part of the Colts’ postseason run.
“He had an opportunity to have surgery a couple of weeks ago in order to be back possibly for his freshman year of college, but this just meant too much to him,” Hall said.
Following his single, Walton was driven home thanks to a triple from Campbell – his second extra-base hit and third RBI of the night.
Campbell, who is committed to play for Lipscomb University next season, scored on a wild pitch to extend the Colts’ lead to 4-1.
“What a player,” Hall said of Campbell. “I mean, these last two days for him have been amazing. We just couldn’t ask for a better showing out of Wyatt Campbell.”
The Eagles scratched across two runs in the bottom of the third inning after Richman notched an RBI single, scoring junior designated hitter Yoel Tejeda, followed by senior first baseman Josh Steidl scoring on a throwing error at first to make it a one-run game.
The Colts’ offense began to stall in the top of the fourth inning as the Eagles’ relief pitcher, freshman Riley Luft, settled in. Luft sat North Marion down in order with two groundouts and a strikeout.
However, North Broward Prep was slow to answer the call as its offense also fell quiet in the bottom of the fourth frame after a strikeout, groundout and flyout, stranded Runsdorf, who led the inning off with a double.
Another quiet at-bat from the Colts in the top of the fifth inning primed the Eagles for an opportunity to capitalize.
With Jones still on the mound, Tejeda jumped on the North Marion pitcher early, blasting a leadoff double deep into center field, where Eli Garcia failed to make the grab.
“He absolutely crushed that baseball,” Hall said of Tejeda’s hit. “That’s out of any high school baseball park in the country.”
Following Tejeda’s big hit, the Eagles started torching the Colts.
Steidl walked, followed by back-to-back hits from Richman and De Castro, to bring Tejeda home. The rally ended Hunter Jones’ night on the mound.
“Hunter is a bulldog on the mound,” Hall said of the sophomore, who finished with five strike outs. “The kid’s got great heart. He’s a great competitor. We feel that he gave us the best opportunity to win.”
Fellow sophomore Karson Smith took over in relief and inherited loaded bases with no outs.
Smith issued a bases-loaded walk, to force in the game-leading run for the Eagles. North Broward Prep’s Runsdorf hit a two-RBI single and another run scored on a fielder’s choice to luft the score to 8-4..
The Colts’ offense dissipated in the sixth and seventh innings. In North Marion’s final seven at-bats, the Colts combined for five pop outs, one strikeout and one hit by pitch.
“Just bad breaks,” Hall said. “And that happens in baseball. I can’t say I’m disappointed in how we played. We just had some things that didn’t go our way… somethings you just don’t normally see in the game of baseball.
“Just bad luck. But these guys have no reason to hang their heads.”
North Marion’s runner-up finish was the best in program history and just the second time the Colts’ sent a team to a state title game across all varsity sports.