North Marion downs Newberg 5-4 to head into championship weekend
It wasn't the prettiest baseball down the stretch, but North Marion clamped down on defense to get the job down against a resilient Newberg Tigers squad. The Berries earned a 5-4 victory against the home team on Saturday, July 24 to improve to 16-2 in Area 3 play overall.
After racking a 5-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Newberg nabbed a pair of runs when the previously sterling North Marion gave up a double RBI. The Tigers put two runs on the board in the bottom of the seventh with one more double RBI before first baseman Isaac Pierce made the fall-away catch to bring the game to a close. It was the same Pierce who earlier in the game made a diving catch at first base to close out another inning. For head coach Tucker Brack that level of commitment is invaluable in a competition.
"(The diving catch) energizes you and demoralizes them," Brack said. "That's what those plays do. It's an energy giver, and an energy sucker, is what it comes down to. Those are great plays. Like I was joking, we've had a hard time getting guys to dive for balls. That's the second diving play we've made in a week. We're excited about that because it hasn't happened."
North Marion got on the scoreboard first with a pair of runs in the second inning thanks to timely stolen bases on passed balls. Taking advantage of those situations were the crucial difference in the game, but they weren't the only offense in the second inning. Leftfielder Trent Hess helped get the bats going, recording an RBI double.
The score stayed the same until the top of the fifth inning when North Marion scored the deciding runs in the contest. Centerfielder Rex DeAngelis hit a booming RBI single to bring in shortstop Carter Reilly for the fourth run. DeAngelis himself would cross Homeplate, once again the benefactor of a passed ball. With the fifth run scored, Newberg's fate was sealed.
No practice time
Though the Berries finished second in their single-A area with a stellar 16-2 record, there was still rust that came with the success. The team has been playing game after game after game but finding little time to practice. With a few days of no competition before the championship, Brack is looking forward to helping his team improve its skillset to help claim summer league gold.
"I think we're really looking forward to practicing, to really work on some things and talk about some things that have happened in game situations that we need to clean up and address and really drill in their heads," Brack said. "We're playing all the games; the downfall is there's no practice time. You're playing every night, so you're talking about this stuff."
Among the things Brack wants to see continued improvement in is the Berries' defense, which has been getting better as the regular season comes to a close. The pitching in particular was solid, according to the head coach.
"We've been kind of struggling defensively throughout the summer," Brack said. "This last probably week and a half we've started to play a little better defensively and kind of figure things out as we've had to make more plays. Which is good for us. And this next week honestly, to have some practice time thrown in there is going to really help our defense even more. But our pitchers sit up there and throw strikes, that's the biggest thing. We rolled out five guys today and threw strikes the entire time. That's extremely helpful for us."
Another reason the teams practices will be so crucial to the players and squad's development is the time lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many games and practices cancelled or limited in the past 16 months, Brack knows that getting his players back to where they were prior to March 2020 will be crucial.
"All the games we played this summer are huge," Brack said. "To be able to put them in game situations is huge because there's no substitute for game situations and then we've just got to approach it like they don't know, and we've got to teach them. And then by the time they get rolling and back to normal, they know these things. It becomes innate and they get to the point where we don't have to say anything, they just know. We've gotten a lot better about that here recently but again it's a slow process with this whole time of not doing anything. So, it's been interesting."
The team squares off with Alpenrose in the first game of the championships at 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at Bob Brack Stadium.
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