North Marion Finishes On Top, Claims First State Title
The North Marion Colts made history Saturday night with a 4-0 state championship win over the Bishop Kenny Crusaders (19-10). It’s the first state title for the program and emotions hit the Colts in one big wave after the final out was recorded.
It might have been easier to count the dry eyes on the field as opposed to the teary ones, but these were tears of joy from the Colts, especially the players that came up just one win short two years ago.
“It’s amazing,” senior Cooper Jones said. “We came here in the 2021 season and didn’t get it done. But we came back in our senior season and got it done.”
Jones entered his senior year with two goals, redemption at states and setting the program record for home runs. He hit his 13th and 14th bombs of the season in the state semifinal win against Miami Sunset Friday night and lifted the championship trophy nearly 24 hours later.
Colts manager Dale Hall admitted that coming up short two years ago made this win that much sweeter, and there are some clear similarities between the two clubs (aside from the returning players).
“That was a very special group as well,” Colts manager Dale Hall said. “They might not have been the best on paper, but they found ways to win. This team is the same. We’ve got six college guys on the roster. They just work, and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
The big bats of the day were Jake Tompkins and Jones. Tompkins drove in the second run of the day on a single up the middle in the third, following a balk that brought in the first. Rowan Quartaro added an insurance run in the fourth and Jones delivered the dagger in the bottom of the sixth.
“I was sitting curveball, I’m not going to lie,” Jones said. “I got it off the hands and it started leaking a little. I thought it was going to go foul, but it ended up staying fair. Really pumped the team up, adding that extra run to secure the win.”
Karson Lindsey’s efforts on the mound can’t go without mention, either. He went the distance, giving up just one hit over seven innings of work. Lindsey effectively pitched to contact all evening, recording just three strikeouts and staying at 80 pitches throughout the day.
Both teams were aggressive at the plate coming out of the gate, but North Marion’s defense refused to budge. The only play that was in question was the final out of the game, which was bobbled a bit at first. Tompkins, the first baseman, just beat the runner to the bag, kicking off the celebration.
Bishop Kenny might have taken the loss, but a state runner-up finish is the best season this program has had in 15 years. The last regional championship came in 2008, which is also the last time the Crusaders won it all.
“Right before the district tournament, we were barely above .500,” Crusaders manager Tommy Edwards said. “That’s the reality of it and I kept telling the kids we have to stick to the plan and something is going to click. Right about then, we told them that the coaches had done all they can and to run with it, and they did. We’re playing in the last game of the 4A Class. Disappointing? Yeah, but are we proud of ’em? You better believe it.”
Edwards is losing nine seniors, most of which played a significant role throughout the season, but there are nine juniors that made the trip to Fort Myers and should be back to lead the team next year. He thinks that his team will be fine despite those losses and expects another successful season in 2024.
For North Marion, new heights have been reached and plenty of local fans traveled to Fort Myers to see the historic moment.
“We call that Northside pride,” Hall said. “I don’t care what sporting event it is, our fans will be there. They are extremely supportive of our program. The crowd that we had tonight was just unbelievable. For them to make that trip and be here with us for this moment means the world to me.”