MARION CENTER — The pulse of Marion Center knuckleballer Jared Selkirk didn’t change when he realized Young Township pinch-hitter Tanner Yard represented the potential game-winning run with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.
Truth be told, Selkirk trusted enough in his defense to clear his mind of any variable except the prospect of throwing strikes.
Selkirk kept the ball down in the strike zone against Yard and induced a flyout to center fielder C.J. Stiles, ending a tightly contested game and securing a 3-2 win for Marion Center in Game 1 of the Indiana County Senior Legion baseball championship series Saturday.
The second game of the best-of-three series will be played today at Bertolino Field in West Lebanon.
With the Renegades trailing 3-1 in the seventh and final inning, clean-up hitter Mitch Johnston ripped a double to left-center field to give Young Township a flicker of hope.
Then, with two outs, Ian Satler smacked an RBI single to right-center field, scoring Johnston to make it 3-2.
But Selkirk refused to get rattled and got the next batter, Yard, to fly out to shallow center field to end the game.
“I just cleared my head of everything really. I was just focused on throwing strikes and getting three outs,” Selkirk said.
“The pitcher threw a nice game. He threw strikes,” Young Township manager Barry Thomas said. “I looked at the book, and I think he threw about 10 balls all game. He threw strikes. We hit everything at them and they fielded it and threw us out. They just played a good, solid game.”
Ben Carnahan gave Young Township an early lead when he singled and scored later in the top of the first on Johnston’s base hit.
Selkirk singled, stole second and scored on Hunter Stiteler’s base hit in the bottom of the third to tie the game, 1-1.
Two batters later, C.J. Stiles clubbed a two-out double into the left-center field gap, scoring Stiteler to put Marion Center ahead 2-1.
“Some people don’t know, but he’s got some real power,” Marion Center manager Joe Bunyak said of Stiles. “When he turns on a ball he can hit it a long way. He’s done it a few times already for us in these playoffs.”
Stiteler manufactured the third run in the bottom of the fifth when he legged out an infield single, stole second and scored on Matt Popovich’s one-out base hit up the middle.
“We knew we had to be aggressive on the base paths, and we knew we couldn’t afford to strand any runners. That was a big key to this win,” Bunyak said.
Stiteler led Marion Center (15-8) by going 3-for-3.
Selkirk struck out five, walked none and allowed six hits in a complete-game win.
“We’re feeling pretty confident, but not quite cocky,” Selkirk said. “We know our limits. We know what we can do, and we feel like this is ours to win.”
Losing pitcher Mike Percic struck out four, walked two and allowed six hits in six innings.
Carnahan and Johnston each finished 2-for-3 for Young Township (15-8).