Marion clinches first playoff berth since 2012
By C.R. Cumbee
Marion—It has been a real struggle for the Marion baseball team over the past five seasons. However, the Swamp Foxes seem to be on the upswing under new head coach Brian Powell. The team is currently 5-8 overall (5-4 in Region 7-AA).
“When I took the job, I said they won’t like me because I’m going to be hard on them. I took the football mentality to them, but they’ve responded pretty well. We want to be competitive and have a chance to win it at the end. In all our games, only one team 10-run ruled us,” Powell said.
“We’ve had to go back to the basics of fielding and hitting and things like that. We want them to have the fundamentals. I want them to play sound defense and put the ball in play to make the other team play some defense. Our goal is to make the playoffs. They haven’t been in the playoffs since 2012.”
Marion has already clinched a playoff berth, but could earn a higher seed if they’re successful in their final three region games. They are fourth in the conference standings, and the top five teams move on to the district tournament.
“We just can’t seem to finish games. The kids don’t know how to finish. They get ahead and then they relax, and they can’t do that,” Powell said. “My main goal is to make them competitive again. The excuse all the time is that we’re young, but we had interest this year. We’re the only county around that doesn’t have jayvee teams. It’s tough to build a program when these kids are having to sit the bench (on varsity) instead of getting playing time on the jayvee team.”
The Swamp Foxes have been led by a trio of players in senior Ronnie King, junior Russell Morgan and sophomore Payton Britt. They form the top of the pitching rotation and also hit in the middle of the batting order. King has started since he was a seventh-grader while Morgan has an earned run average under 3.00.
“Those three have kind of stood out more than the others. They hit the ball and we can rely on them to do some things. They’re somewhat consistent and getting better as time goes on. They’re all batting over .300 right now and they do the little things,” Powell said.
King will also play third base and shortstop while Morgan is an outfielder. Britt is behind the plate catching when not on the mound.
Sophomore Teric Reaves has been the fourth starter and features a knuckleball to go with some other junk pitches.
Also seeing a lot of time in the lineup is corner infielder Cornelius Lightfoot, right fielder Dawson Hunsucker, shortstop Thomas Skipper, second baseman Charles Hatchell and centerfielder Qua’liek Crawford.
Gabe Watson is a utility player and both Grayson Henderson and Harley Cox have seen time at designated hitter. Ortavis Ortiz, Logan Burroughs, Tre Johnson and Justin Bass make up the remainder of the roster.