The Marion Warriors earned the Class 3A regional baseball championship title and a state berth with a down-to-the-wire, 9-8, victory over Halstead Tuesday night.
After facing an 8-2 deficit in the top of the sixth inning, the Warriors battled to within 8-6 by the end of the inning.
With relief pitcher Jacob Harper on the mound, the Warriors held the Dragons scoreless, stranding a runner at second at the close of the half inning.
Needing two runs to tie and three to win, the Warriors needed a big final half inning.
Faced with two outs and runners at second and third, Zach Robson ripped asingle to right field that brought Harper and Williams home to tie the game, 8-8. Taylor Heidebrecht was hit by a pitch, allowing Robson to advance to second. Dylan Seacat then stroked the game-winning hit that brought Robson home. The win was an interesting reversal of storylines from a week prior, when Marion gave up a three-inning, 8-2 lead in Game 2 at Halstead to lose 9-8.
In the championship game, neither team scored until Halstead broke the ice with four runs in the top of the third inning. Bret Voth doubled for Marion, scoring Robson and Seacat to bring the Warriors to within 4-2 after three innings.
Halstead scored a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning for a 6-2 advantage, and the score remained that way until the Dragons brought two more home in the sixth for the 8-2 lead.
But the Warriors battled back in the bottom of the inning. Jacob Harper and Caleb Williams singled to start things off, and Harper later scored on a balk. Halstead walked Zac Lewman and Jacob Baldwin to load the bases.
With Halstead’s Blake Beckett coming in to pitch in relief of starter Shane VanSteenburg, Robson singled to center, bringing Williams home. Leadoff hitter Taylor Heidebrecht followed with a two-RBI single to center, drawing Marion to within 8-6.
With Harper on the mound to start the seventh inning, Halstead’s first batter grounded out to second. Harper followed with a strikeout but walked Timothy Glassco, who later stole second. But the Warriors escaped unscathed when Halstead’s fourth batter, Devan Herb, grounded out to second to end the inning.
With the win, Marion advances to the Class 3A state tournament May 23-24 at Tointon Family Stadium on the campus of Kansas State University.
SEMIFINALS—To get to the championship, Marion gained an 8-1 victory over No. 3 seeded Hillsboro.
The game’s first run came in the bottom of the second inning when Marion’s Zac Lewman managed a two-out double that brought Bret Voth home.
Marion added four runs in the bottom of the third inning. Nelson walked Ethan Hett with the bases loaded, allowing Heidebrecht to score, and Caleb Williams followed with a two-run single to right field that scored Case and Voth. Lewman brought Hett home with a single, and Marion led, 5-0.
Case added to the Warrior score with a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Hillsboro threatened when Nelson singled to left field to open the fifth inning, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Josh Davidson. Micah Allen reached first on a throwing error, and Nelson advanced to third, but Faul grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that ended the half-inning with Marion ahead, 7-0.
Marion added its final run in the bottom of the fifth, courtesy of a one-run triple by Williams.
Hillsboro got on the board in the top of the seventh inning. An Allen single allowed pinch runner Nelson to advance to third. Nelson scored on the following play when Faul reached on an error.
Other regional scores are as follows: No. 1 Southeast of Saline and No. 2 Marion enjoyed first-round byes. No. 4 Halstead defeated No. 5 Haven, 4-3, in the quarterfinals, while No. 3 Hillsboro beat No. 6 Ellsworth, 8-7. Halstead defeated Southeast of Saline, 7-3, in the semifinals.