MARION – Two years ago, Marion Harding’s baseball team suffered through a 1-24 season. Last year, they improved to 6-18.

This season? The Presidents matched the 2016 win total in the first seven games.

“It’s senior leadership without a doubt,” Harding coach Brett McCrery said. “They decided this is their last go-round, and they’ve come together and are playing really well. It’s all them. They are doing a fantastic job.”

The difference between this season and the last few isn’t as stark as some would think, McCrery said. It’s less about talent and more about approach that has changed their fortunes.

“It’s an attitude and a chemistry that exists this year that has not been there to this degree in the past,” he said. “The atmosphere in the school is good. They should have won the league in football, and they played exceptionally well in basketball and did win the league. I think they do feel good about themselves and the things that go on here.

“Confidence is everything, absolutely everything.”

Seniors’ Tyriq Harris, Logan Pirnstill, Ryan Sayre, Max Mitchell, Austin Riegel and Robbie Lindsay and juniors’ Tahvean Mason and Kirkland Hawkins keyed the turnaround with their experience. Sophomores Gabe Detwiler and Kwauve Booker also bring varsity experience and success.

Between the lines, it starts with pitching for Harding.

“The defense has been fantastic, but I attribute that to consistent strike throwing,” McCrery said. “When you throw strikes consistently, it keeps the defense on its toes. We pitch for contact. We don’t strike a lot of guys out.”

Lindsay is 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA, but only has eight strikeouts. Sophomore Devin Dillinger is 1-0 with a 4.69 ERA and eight strikeouts, too. Sophomore Sam Mitchell and Sayre have yet to give up an earned run, combining for 13 strikeouts.

At the plate, that varsity experience has led to confidence. The team is batting just under .300 with a 41 runs through seven games. Booker leads the team with a batting average at .529, two home runs and eight RBIs. Mason bats .450 with six RBIs, while Hawkins bats .429 with five runs, and Detwiler is hitting .348 with eight runs. Harris, Sayre and Riegel all bat .280 or better.

“If you believe you’re going to put the ball in play, you’re going to put the ball in play. In the past we’ve been a team that has kind of kicked it around, and we’ve watched other teams kick it around (this year),” McCrery said. “We’re playing consistently well. We’re committed to the fundamentals, and we’re moving the baseball. Our strikeouts are down and our walks are up and the opposite is true pitching-wise.”

The Prexies (7-1, 2-0) will play in a first-place showdown with Jonathan Alder (7-1, 4-0) Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. at the Grant Middle School field, which further shows the growth of the squad.

“We’re not going to shy away. They know it’s a big game,” McCrery said. “The boys feel good about themselves, and as they go through the schedule, they feel like they can beat anybody. Whether or not that’s true is yet to be seen, but the key is they believe it. Believing it is 99 percent of it.”

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