It’s a repeat for the Destin Marlins.
For the second year in a row, the Destin Marlin baseball team has brought home the hardware. The Marlins beat the Meigs Wildcats 7-1 in the Okaloosa County Middle School Baseball 1A championship game Wednesday afternoon in Shalimar.
“Our eighth graders played their hearts out … (I'm) so happy to see them shine,” said Destin Coach Matthew Cawthon.
Eighth graders on the team are Dylan Matekovich, Zander Davis, Alex Kruse, Donovan Monsees, Caleb Reeder, Noah Wright and Braxton Taylor.
“We played flawless defense, as our guys normally do,” Cawthon said. “We have been saving our ace pitcher Alex Kruse for this showdown and he pitched the game of his life."
Kruse went the distance for the Marlins. He faced 26 batters, struck out eight, walked two and gave up five hits.
As for the offense, Destin barreled up on the ball and connected for a total of 11 hits.
Reeder collected three hits, while Davis, Taylor and Kruse each had two.
Reeder got his first hit in the first inning on a single to right. Davis singled to center to score Reeder for a 1-0 start.
Meigs answered in the bottom half with a triple and a score for a 1-1 game.
The tie didn’t last long as Destin’s Kruse led off the second inning with a blast over the right field fence for a homer. The next two Marlins went down on a strike out and a ground out. Up next, Monsees doubled to left but was left stranded when the next batter grounded out.
In the top of the fifth, Destin added two runs to the board. Monsees was hit by a pitch and scored on a triple from Reeder. Up next, Davis doubled to center field to bring in Reeder for a 4-1 advantage.
Destin finished up with three runs in the seventh. Wright led with a double to right. Reeder walked and Davis popped up for an out with runners advancing. Up next Taylor doubled to left with Wright and Reeder scoring for a 6-1 game. The next batter struck out before Kruse doubled to right to bring in Taylor for a 7-1 game.
In the bottom of the seventh, Meigs went down on a pop fly to first baseman Davis, a ground out to Kruse at pitcher and then another pop fly to centerfielder Taylor.
Destin finished the season 12-3 with a championship trophy to boot.
“Our guys got knocked down a couple of times this year but got right back up and fought harder each and every day not settling for anything but their best,” Cawthon said. “When you have as many selfless guys like we have had the last two years in our program, it really is contagious.
“Today is bittersweet to watch our eighth graders for the last time," he added. "They have set a fine foundation for our up and coming guys and they will excel at the next level.”