The Warriors finished second at state a year ago.
“Two years in a row we win a regional championship and we’re a state placer,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “It’s the first two state placements for Marion baseball, so I’m very proud of our guys and our program.”
After enduring disappointment with a semifinal loss earlier in the day, the Warriors took the field a second time in what Schroeder said was a difficult game to play.
“You’re on the brink of a state championship, and then you’ve got to sit around and play a game for third place,” he said. “I’m so proud of our group, the way that we responded.”
Marion scored its first run off two hits in the opening inning. Sam Zinn reached base when the Falcons let a pop up drop in the infield, and Corbin Wheeler followed with an RBI triple.
The score remained 1-0 until Cole Srajer hit a leadoff triple to left field in the third inning and scored on Zinn’s sacrifice fly, making it 2-0.
Riley County scored in the fourth inning with a single and a sacrifice fly.
Evann Heidebrecht hit a leadoff triple in the bottom of the fourth, and Jacob Vondenkamp and Cooper Carpenter later hit RBI singles sandwiching a walk by Garrett Hoffner and a strikeout. Srajer drove in Marion’s fifth run with a single.
The Warriors piled it on with a two-hit, four-run fifth inning, highlighted by Hoffner’s RBI double and Srajer’s RBI single. Riley County committed two errors. By the end of the inning, Marion led 9-1, which held to the end.
Srajer was 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs.
Jaxton Tracy (6-1) earned the pitching win, giving up six hits and one earned run in six innings. He walked two batters and struck out three.
“We’re one of two teams in our class that get to end on a win,” Schroeder said. “It’s a really cool thing for this senior class that puts two trophies in the trophy case, to get a win under their belt on the way out. They don’t have to end their season with a loss.
Marion has graduated five seniors: Riley Hake, Hoffner, Srajer, Vondenkamp and Corbin Wheeler.
“They bought in from Day 1,” Schroeder said. “They had to take their lumps. They replaced a class of eight that went to back-to-back state tournaments, so that’s a tough role to follow. We took our lumps as freshmen as sophomores, those guys did, but we did things right, we continued on the right path and I could not ask more from them.”
Marion ends the season with a 23-3 record, matching last year’s win total, a program-best in wins.
Sabetha 9, Marion 4
Class 3A semifinals, Friday
Baseball is a game of momentum swings and opportunity, and Friday’s 3A semifinal game had both.
Trailing 1-0 after Sabetha touched Warrior starter Chase Stringer for a first-inning RBI single after Stringer issued a leadoff walk on four pitches, Marion tied the game in the third inning when Cole Srajer hit a two-out triple to left field, and Sam Zinn followed with an RBI single.
Momentum continued to shift Marion’s way when Luke Lanning hit a triple to right center to leadoff the fourth inning, and Evann Heidebrecht reached base via error. The runners advanced to second and third with no outs, yet Marion failed to capitalize.
“The pressure is all out on the field, and instead we bailed them out with three really, really bad at-bats,” Schroeder said. “That was the game.”
With an energized Sabetha dugout after starter Trevor Kramer escaped unscathed, the Bluejay offense came to life in the fifth inning, hitting three singles in a row off Stringer to load the bases with nobody out. A hit batter brought the first run home, and the half-inning snowballed from there. A second run scored on a wild pitch. After that came a two-run single, a two-out RBI single and a walk.
Jaxton Tracy entered the game to pitch in relief, and, after a single, an error allowed another run to score. The Bluejays hit a two-run double and the Warriors made a second error before the inning ended, reeling from an eight-run inning and a 9-1 score.
Marion did not go down without a fight. Lanning’s sacrifice fly and a two-run single by Heidebrecht to end Kramer’s outing and then close within 9-4 after five innings.
Marion endured a 1-2-3 sixth inning versus reliever Joseph Gruber and stranded two on base in the bottom of the seventh.
“We had an opportunity to change the complexion of that whole game with a ball in play,” Schroeder said of the fourth inning. “It sounds simple. I know it’s not, but it is. ”
Stringer (7-1) suffered his first loss of the season, giving up seven hits and eight runs (six earned) in 4.2 innings. He walked three batters and struck out two. Tracy gave up two hits and one earned run in 2.1 innings, walking one batter and striking out one.
Srajer and Zinn were each 2-for-3 at the plate. Heidebrecht had two RBIs.
“Sabetha competed really well,” Schroeder said. “The kid on the mound threw a ton of strikes. I thought we did a poor job early in the game of really bailing him out, going after some first pitches.”
Sabetha went on to win the state title, defeating Thomas More Prep, 10-5.
Marion 11, Cheney 1
Class 3A quarterfinals, Thursday
Marion opened state tournament play with a run-rule win in six innings Thursday.
“We played right into our own hand,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “We had all the cards, and I thought we did an excellent job with them. It wasn’t pretty, offensively. Defensively though, we played OK. We got it done, and that’s all we wanted to do.”
Cooper Carpenter launched an RBI double off reliever Micah Grover in the bottom of the sixth to walk it off for the Warriors, capping a two-hit, three-run inning. Garrett Hoffner hit an RBI single, and Marion benefitted from a Cardinal error and a walk.
Cheney actually took the first lead, as Warrior starter Sam Zinn needed 26 pitches to get through the first inning, in which he issued a bases-loaded walk.
But Marion took the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning. Cole Srajer hit a leadoff single, and Corbin Wheeler worked a one-out walk. Two runs scored when a sharply-hit ball by Luke Lanning rolled past the second baseman into center field.
Marion added to its lead in the third inning without a hit when Lanning worked a leadoff walk and Evann Heidebrecht was hit by a pitch. A Cardinal error allowed two runs to score, making it 4-1.
The Warriors got to Cardinal starter Dawson Winter in the fourth inning, loading the bases and scoring four runs off two hits and an error. Heidebrecht hit an RBI single, and Marion worked five walks, four of them in a row. When the dust settled, Marion led, 8-1.
The score remained that way until the sixth inning.
Cheney stranded eight on base. Marion stranded nine.
Zinn (5-1) earned the pitching win, throwing all six innings and surrendering five hits and one earned run. He walked seven batters and struck out three.
“Sam competed without his best stuff and held a pretty good lineup to one run,” Schroeder said. “The first kid that threw, (Dawson Winter), threw a hard, good breaking ball. We chased a couple pitches early in the first maybe three innings or so, but then we did a good job of not expanding the zone.”
Five Warriors recorded one hit: Srajer, Hoffner, Carpenter, Heidebrecht and Lanning. Carpenter had two RBIs.
“Effort and attitude—that’s what we talk about,” Schroeder said. “Every time we take the field, those are the things we can control. Effort and attitude. We controlled them both, and we did an excellent job today.”