MARION – Marion finally found a way to break the Mountain Home jinx.
After a devastating loss on Tuesday afternoon cost the Patriots a crucial 7A/6A-East win, Marion circled the wagons and defended John Robbins Field on Thursday, taking a 2-0 victory against the Bombers behind a complete-game shutout from junior right-hander Ben Vaughn and a pair of RBI singles from Will Skipper and Cole Strayhorn.
It was Marion’s (7-11, 3-7) first win against Mountain Home (7-8, 4-6) in their last three meetings, dating back to the spring of 2013. The Bombers and Patriots each now are 1-1 against Class 6A opponents, having played only each other.
The Bombers defeated the Patriots 6-4 on Tuesday, ending the game with a two-out, walk-off grand slam by Sky-Lar Culver.
Marion head coach Daniel Kelley would no doubt have liked to win both games against Mountain Home, but was happy to salvage a split anyway he could get it.
“I feel great about that,” stated Kelley after the game. “Tuesday, we lost a tough game that we felt like we should have won. The best thing we did tonight was we closed out a ball game that we were ahead and had control of all night long.”
Vaughn, a tough-luck loser in his last conference start against North Little Rock, turned in the best start of his varsity career against the Bombers. Vaughn pitched all seven innings, allowed a pair of hits, and struck out six.
More importantly, Vaughn was able to extricate himself from a pair of early jams in the first and second innings.
Mountain Home threatened in the top of the second when Vaughn issued a pair of walks with just one out, but that situation was snuffed out when Marion third baseman Bryce Reynolds snagged a hot line drive and forced a Bomber runner out at second base to keep the game scoreless.
“The first two innings we really hit the ball well,” explained Mountain Home head coach Jim Tejcek. “We had a ball in the first inning that if it gets by the second baseman, we probably plate a run. We hit the ball as well as we have in a couple weeks, and they made every play that they were capable of making.”
From the third inning until the seventh inning, Vaughn sat down 12 of the 16 batters he faced.
While Vaughn dug in on the mound, Marion got the bats rattling in the bottom of the third when they posted the game’s only two runs.
With one out, second baseman Caleb Marconi reached on an error and moved to second when centerfielder Cody Raymond walked. Marconi took third on an errant throw, which brought Skipper, a freshman, to the plate.
Skipper delivered an RBI single to center, which would eventually double as the game’s winning run. Raymond scored when Strayhorn singled to center, and the Pats had broken through.
Mountain Home southpaw Mason Smith nearly matched Vaughn’s performance. Smith lasted six innings, surrendered six hits, and just a single earned run, but took the loss for the Bombers.
Mountain Home had one last rally in the top of the seventh. With a single out, the Bombers picked up a pair of walks to represent the game’s tying runs.
However, Vaughn was able to record a strikeout, and despite a passed ball moving the Bomber runners to second and third, Vaughn ended the game with his sixth strikeout.
“Ben did a good job. He threw a few too many pitches in the first two innings, but then he settled in real well,” said Kelley of his starter. “When he was locating his fastball well, we could come back with an off-speed pitch here and there.”