By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
WEBB CITY, Mo. - Little gets past Webb City second baseman Marcus Ozbun.
That's true whether the junior is in the batter's box or playing defense.
Ozbun is the Cardinals' unlikely leading hitter at .434 entering Thursday's 5 p.m. MSHSAA Class 3 sectional game against visiting Republic at Barnes Field.
"Unlikely" might be too strong a description for the left-handed batting Ozbun. He did pick up eight hits - all singles - in 23 at-bats last season as the Cardinals (25-4) won the Class 3 championship. He also stroked a single in the title game.
Ozbun insisted, considering everything, so what if a designated hitter was employed for him most of the time on offense.
"It really didn't bother me that much," Ozbun said Tuesday. "I occasionally batted and we were winning."
Said Cardinal coach Bryce Darnell: "He struggled early in the season and the guy who batted for him was hitting the ball."
Ozbun's success has allowed him to move up from the first or second place to the No. 3 hole in Darnell's batting order.
"I really don't know," Ozbun said when asked to explain the robust hitting. "But I make contact at the plate (with just five strikeouts compared to seven bases on balls). I work hard. We have a batting cage and a pitching machine at home. I also work on a tee in the basement. I'm getting the at-bats, of course."
Ozbun, who's 33-for-76 at the plate, has six doubles, a triple and 16 runs batted in. He leads the Cardinals in runs scored with 29 and is 16-for-16 in stolen bases.
"Marcus, who switch-hit through his sophomore year before deciding to concentrate on batting left, understands how to hit," Darnell said. "He's consistent and doesn't try to do too much. He doesn't make the same mistake twice in an at-bat. He obviously works at hitting. He probably takes as many swings at home as he does in practice."
Ozbun also hasn't forgotten about defense.
"He can flat play defense," Darnell said. "He's made just two errors."
Said Ozbun: "I'm proud of my improvement on defense. I believe I've made only two or three errors after I made several last season."
Darnell appreciates the demeanor of the all-Southwest Conference infielder.
"He's quiet by nature and (wanting) a lot of recognition isn't (a part) his personality," Darnell said.
Ozbun's brother, Kyle, has been helping out the Cardinals recently.
Kyle, a junior left-handed pitcher at Delta State, Cleveland, Miss., has thrown some batting practice for the Cardinals.
By Anvil Welch