ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Marion softball team was set to host Herington Thursday with a league championship on the line. A sweep of the doubleheader would have given the Warriors the Cottonwood Valley League crown.
But the grinch stole Christmas for coach Charlotte Waner’s Warriors-although it wasn’t without a fight.
Rain prompted the teams to load the bus and drive up U.S. Highway 77 to Herington to play the games.
“First we were going to play, and then we weren’t, and then we did again,” Waner said. “It was difficult for the girls to get a real mental focus in the beginning, but they did just a super job anyway.”
The result, though, was a pair of one-run losses that gave the crown to the Railers.
In the opener, Herington squeaked by 2-1, even though Marion outhit the Railers 12-7.
“We made some silly mistakes that caught up to us,” Waner said.
Lack of timely hitting was the most glaring problem.
“When you leave 11 runners on base and lose by one, it’s very difficult to take,” Waner said.
Ace pitcher Megan Moore didn’t disappoint. She allowed only one hit through the first four innings and no runs.
Then, in the fifth inning, Moore walked her only batter of the night, her teammates committed an error, and the Railers slapped out consecutive base hits to push two runs across the plate.
Marion, meanwhile, had three base hits in innings four and six, but failed to score in either frame.
It wasn’t until the seventh and final at bat that Marion finally broke the goose egg.
Since Marion was scheduled to be the host team, they had the advantage of getting last at-bats.
Sarah Williams reached base on a Railer error to start the inning. Following a fielder’s choice that moved Williams to second, Caitlin O’Dell singled, outing runners on first and third.
A wild pitch scored Williams with just one out. Nikki Moody followed with single, but Moore struck out for the second out of the inning.
Herington strategically walked Emmy Bowers to load the bases. It paid off. Krista Zogelman grounded out to end the inning and the game.
Moore finished with a seven-hitter. She walked one, struck out 12 and allowed no earned runs.
Marion bounced back in the second game to battle the Railers tooth and nail. Unfortunately, the results were the same as the Warriors dropped a 3-2 decision in eight innings.
Marion took the lead in the second inning, but scored only one run on three hits and left the bases loaded. Heidi Zogelman, led off with a single, came around to score the run.
Moore, meanwhile, shut down the Railer offense through the first three innings on just one hit.
The fourth inning, though, was a breakthrough for the Railers. Three base hits resulted in two runs and a 2-1 lead.
Marion evened the score in the fourth when Leann Thomas smacked a one-out triple and then scored a run on a wild pitch.
In the eighth, Herington pieced together two hits, including a one-out triple and regained the advantage, 3-2.
Marion rallied in the bottom of the inning when Bowers, Mindy Mastin and Thomas all reached base in the inning to load the bases with two outs. But Whitney Wear struck out to end the game.
Moore pitched all eight innings, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out seven.
But the Warriors once again struggled on offense. They outhit the Railers, 9-8, but stranded nine more runners for a total of 20 in the doubleheader.
With the losses, the Warriors ended their regular season 16-4 overall and 6-4 in CVL play. They finished in third place behind Herington and Sacred Heart.
“We had some good emotions, along with some anger after the losses,” Waner said. “The girls were really disappointed with the way they played and with the fact that they were unable to get the clutch hit at the big moments in the game.”
Although they ended the regular season on a down note, Marion is still seeded No. 1 in their regional to be played at Osage City this week.