North Marion in the final four

The North Marion (Citra) baseball team is back in the final four.

The Colts (20-8) defeated Baker County (Glen St. Mary), 6-0, in last Wednesday’s regional final to advance to Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers for the FHSAA Class 4A state semifinals.

It’s their second trip to Fort Myers in the past five years. The Colts did it with a high-octane offense that averaged 9.29 runs per game and a solid pitching group that had a team earned run average of 2.81.

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“We knew going in we’d have a special offense,” said North Marion baseball coach and Athletic Director Dale Hall. “Pitching struggled to show consistency for most of the season. We only returned one arm from last year’s team that had any significant varsity experience. Add to that a number of injuries sustained throughout the year and losing players to being quarantined, it was a struggle.”

Then the Colts began to get healthy and started hitting their stride. None bigger than Wyatt Campbell, according to Hall.

“He is the biggest reason we are in the final four,” he said. “He’s been outstanding the last month.”

Campbell is 9-3 with a 1.85 ERA. In 64.1 innings pitched he has given up just 17 earned runs with 40 walks and 97 strikeouts.

“Ultra-competitive,” Hall said of Monday’s starting pitcher. “He attacks hitters with no fear. He struggled during the last few weeks of the regular season but didn’t stop working. He put in the time and it has paid off for him and our program.”

The senior tossed a complete game shutout in the region final, allowing only four hits and two walks, along with six strikeouts. The Lipscomb University commit struck out 11 against Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) in the regional semifinals.

“Wyatt could literally play any position for us on the field and would do it with a smile on his face,” Hall said. “The ultimate teammate. I have not seen many players come through our program get the respect he does from his teammates. They all know he will do anything he can for them on and off the field.

North Marion has won six in a row since a 5-0 loss at Santa Fe (Alachua) on April 20. Since then, the Colts have outscored their opponents 51-3.

“Hitting has continued to shine, we’ve played amazing defense, and pitching has finally shown consistency,” Hall said.

Offensively, senior shortstop Deric Fabian is among the leaders with a .494 average. He leads the team with 43 hits, 51 RBI, and a North Marion single season record 13 home runs.

“Special,” Hall said of the University of Florida commit. “His attitude is off the charts. You will never see him low. He’s as athletic and talented as anyone I’ve ever coached. He’s a premier shortstop and offensive numbers speak for themselves.”

The Colts will play at 4 p.m. on Monday against Nature Coast (Brooksville), which eliminated Bishop Moore (Orlando), 6-1, in the regional finals.

“We just have to continue to do what has put us in the final four – pitch and play defense,” Hall said. “We know the offense will be there when we need it. Nature Coast is a very good team and we will have to play well to have a chance to win.”

The Sharks, who started the season 13-0, are 24-4 this season. They are batting .304 and have a team ERA of 2.34.

“I think we match up well with Nature Coast and our game has the potential to be a great one,” Hall said. “It will come down to who pitches it well and gets the little things done right.”

Dunedin will play North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek) in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. on Monday.

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