In the bottom-line business of winning and losing, there has been no worries this season for Marion’s baseball team.
The Warriors are 8-0 for the second consecutive spring and have outscored their four opponents 108-12.
Still, it might be challenging to get deep into a conversation with Marion coach Roger Schroeder before he laments the number of walks his pitchers have issued or his offense’s inconsistency with runners in scoring position.
And get this. His players agree.
“We’re just kind of struggling at stringing at-bats together sometimes,” senior first baseman and pitcher Taylor Heidebrecht said. “Roger sets good goals for us, and if we can achieve them, we’ll be successful.”
Heidebrecht, a regular in Marion’s lineup for four seasons, collected his 100th and 101st career hits Tuesday in the opener of a 6-0 and 12-2 sweep over Canton-Galva on Tuesday. He walked three times in the nightcap, leaving his batting average at a team-best .682 (15 for 22).
Heidebrecht is an example of the type of talent Marion returned from a team that reached the Class 3A quarterfinals last season. The Warriors, 15-6 last spring, have seven players who were regulars in the 2013 lineup.
“We’re going to be a good team,” said Schroeder, who is in his fourth season at Marion. “We’ve got guys who’ve been through a lot the last couple years. We haven’t come close to playing our best games.”
Yet there are glowing indicators of Marion’s success. The Warriors have committed one error in eight games. They are batting .411 with 25 extra-base hits, including four home runs. And a pitching staff hit hard by graduation has effectively retooled.
Led by another four-year player, Grif Case, Marion’s team ERA is 1.63 heading into Thursday’s doubleheader against Clay Center-Wakefield. Heidebrecht also has a key role on the staff along with senior Luke Steele and junior Bret Voth, who has won twice without allowing an earned run.
“We just have a lot more focus than we’ve had in past years,” said Heidebrecht, part of a senior class that is 50-22 in baseball. “I knew we had some guys that would do alright. There are a few that are playing a little above what I expected, which I’m not going to complain about.”
Marion’s schedule will intensify, beginning Tuesday at unbeaten Sedgwick. The Cardinals, led by junior shortstop Brylie Ware, swept Marion last season on their way to a second straight Heart of America League title.
Sedgwick, which has outscored opponents 71-3 in a 6-0 start, is also part of a challenging regional Marion will host next month that includes Collegiate and Independent.
“Last year, they came in here, kicked our teeth in and swept us,” Schroeder said. “We don’t want to overlook what’s in front of us Thursday, but we’re looking forward to going to Sedgwick and having an opportunity to try to return the favor.”
That could be one explanation for the junior first baseman’s power display in the Grizzlies’ doubleheader sweep against North.
Jones, a right-handed batter, hit the first three home runs of his high school career as Northwest won 9-0 and 14-2 at McAdams Park. The last of Jones’ homers was a grand slam and helped him finish the day 4 for 6 with seven RBIs and five runs scored.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” said Jones, who also doubled and walked twice. “After my first one, my confidence went straight up.”
While a superstition-themed breakfast may have played a role, Jones said the catalyst was a conversation with Northwest coach Chris Lambert.
“I’ve been swinging hard and trying too hard,” said Jones, who grounded out to short and struck out in his first two at-bats against North. “He just told me to relax up there and try to hit it the other way.”
All of Jones’ homers cleared the fence in center field. Jones’ teammate, Wil Clark, also homered in the nightcap and pitched a one-hitter in the opener as the Grizzlies evened their record at 4-4.
“We were really needing this,” Jones said. “After we lost to Carroll and Heights, I think a lot of us lost some confidence. I think it’s going to help us out a lot.”