ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Marion Warriors traveled to Osage City Thursday as the No. 1 seed in their regional. Unfortunately, they came home as the No. 2 finisher.
The Warriors defeated Alma-Wabaunsee, 3-2, in the semifinals, but lost the title to the home team, 3-1, in a nine-inning heartbreaker to end their season with a sterling 17-5 record.
Against Alma-Wabaunsee, Megan Moore got the start for Marion and struck out nine batters while giving up seven hits and no walks.
At the plate, Marion struck early. Catlin O’Dell led off by whacking a 3-2 pitch into right-center for a double.
Sarah Williams followed with a fly ball to right that was first misplayed and then overthrown, allowing O’Dell to score.
That’s the way the score stayed until the bottom of the fourth, when Moore reached base on an error by the Charger shortstop. Mindy Mastin came in as a courtesy runner and promptly stole second base.
Emmy Bowers followed with a grounder to the pitcher that advanced Mastin to third base, where she scored on a single by Krista Zogelman.
After Heidi Zogelman hit a grounder to short, forcing Krista Zogelman at second, Leann Thomas stepped to the plate and laced a sharp grounder to right field.
Once again, the right fielder uncorked a wild throw over third base, allowing Heidi Zogelman to score the third run of the game for Marion.
Moore cruised into the sixth inning with the 3-0 lead, but Alma-Wabaunsee (5-16) still had fire left in them.
With one out, the Chargers strung together four hits and put two runs on the board. Moore struck out the final batter of the inning with Marion ahead, 3-2.
Moore took care of business in the final inning to preserve the win and send the Warriors to the regional finals against the home-town Osage City Indians, who defeated Central Heights 7-2 in the other semifinal game.
Both teams traded punches through the first five innings, but neither team was able to get a runner across home plate, despite several threats.
Marion put two runners aboard in the second inning when Krista Zogelman singled and Thomas walked-but both were left stranded.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Bowers reached base on an error, promptly stole second and then moved to third on a grounder by Heidi Zogelman-but again was left stranded.
Osage City tried to mount a two-out rally in the fifth with back-to-back singles, but Moore struck out the final batter of the inning.
It wasn’t until the top of the sixth that Osage City finally scored on the Warriors.
After Moore retired the first two batters, Ali Buenger singled, moved to second base on a wild pitch and then scored when Chelsea Morris laced a double to left field, giving Osage City a 1-0 lead.
Marion came right back in its half of the inning.
With one out, Bowers singled and stole second base. Krista Zogelman walked to put runners on first and second.
With Heidi Zogelman at the plate, the Indian’s Angie Giesy uncorked a wild pitch, sending the runners in motion.
With the ball rolling away from home plate along the first-base line, Bowers attempted to score from second base-but was cut down at the plate.
Krista Zogelman moved to third on the play and scored the tying run when Heidi Zogelman hit a ball to right field that was misplayed.
The game moved into extra innings after no team managed a run in the regulation seven,
Then, with one out in the ninth, Geisy drew Moore’s only walk of the contest.
What happened next was something out of the “Twilight Zone” for Marion fans.
When Laura Loschke slapped a ground ball to third baseman Amber Richmond, her throw to second sailed into center field.
Center fielder Whitney Wear, backing up the play, retrieved the ball and fired it to third base in an attempt to get the advancing runner-but the throw sailed over Richmond.
Backing up the play was Moore, who fielded the ball and fired it to home plate, where catcher Krista Zogelman was covering.
But that throw sailed past Zogelman, allowing not only Geisy to score, but also Loschke, who had hit the original grounder to third base.
Suddenly, Osage City had a 3-1 lead.
Moore struck out the final two batters, giving her 16 for the game. But the damage was done.
“My team could have given up very easily after we had that inning of errors on the field, but they came back and finished the inning and came up to bat, still with a glimmer of hope in their eyes,” coach Charlotte Waner said. “They fought to the very end.”
With two outs, Thomas laced a clutch two-out, two-strike single. Nikki Moody followed with a sinking liner to right, but Osage City’s Erin Donigan made a shoestring catch to vanquish the Warriors’ state-tournament dreams.
Marion managed just six hits in the championship game, while drawing three walks but stranded seven runners.
“You can’t win a softball game when you don’t bat well, and you leave people on base,” a dejected Waner said.
But Waner did find several positives from her team’s 17-5 season and looks to a promising future.
“I see a lot of young kids that play well, I see a lot of leadership that can be reproduced in that junior class,” she said. “I know that I’ll have great leadership next year.
“The desire to win, I think, is becoming more and more, not only in softball, but in girls’ athletics at Marion,” she said.
Playing their final games as Warriors were seniors Krista Zogelman, Heidi Zogelman and Moore.
“They did an excellent job being senior leaders,” Waner said. “They led the team not only by being great softball players, but in the classroom as well.
“Our seniors will be greatly missed and their shoes will be hard to fill.”