Neighbors battle in regional semifinals

Coach Roger Schroeder congratulates Evann Heidebrecht after a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to celebrate a shot for a state tournament berth. Janae Rempel / Free Press

With a three-hit shutout of Southeast of Saline Wed­nesday, the Marion baseball team earned its second-consecutive trip to the Class 3A state tournament, defeating the Trojans, 6-0, in the Lyons regional championship game.

“There’s eight teams that get to go (to state) every year,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to do it four times in the last eight years, so it’s a heck of an accomplishment.”

Chase Stringer (7-0) was dominant on the mound, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings. He gave up one hit—a fifth-inning single—walked three batters, and with his final pitch struck out his ninth batter.

Jaxton Tracy surrendered two hits in 1.1 innings, striking out three Trojans.

Offensively, Cole Srajer launched the second pitch he saw over the fence for a leadoff home run to put the Warriors ahead early. Sam Zinn singled and later scored via an error to give Marion a 2-0 lead after one inning.

Three scoreless innings followed.

In the fifth inning, SES loaded the bases with one out, but Stringer worked out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Warriors loaded the bases with one out. Corbin Wheeler hit an RBI single off reliever Hunter Whittecar, making it 3-0. With the bases still loaded, and Grant Tillberg on the mound, Luke Lanning reached via an error and two more runs scored, extending Marion’s lead to 5-0 through five.

Marion worked two walks to start the sixth inning, and Srajer hit an RBI triple to the centerfield fence to reach the final 6-0 score.

“I really was frustrated in the early innings when we kind of squatted on a two-run lead,” Schroeder said. “The three runs in the fifth really helped us to feel comfortable and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I thought we did a good job of not really getting ahead of ourselves.”

The Trojans stranded 10 runners.

Srajer was 2-for-3 at-bat and had two RBIs. Zinn was 2-for-4.

“I don’t know if you can put how important a swing like that is to start a championship game,” Schroeder said of Srajer’s home run. “I just felt like from that point on, (SES) never had any kind of momentum.”

Marion 6, Hillsboro 5

Class 3A semifinals, May 16, Lyons

Marion and Hillsboro battled to the bitter end in a game that went to extra innings. But in the end, the Warriors were victorious when Evann Heidebrecht hit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 5-5 tie.

Hunter Hein slides home safely after a wild pitch in the top of the fourth inning versus Marion as Sam Zinn covers the plate.“That’s a great at-bat by him because of his previous at-bat,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “Guy on third base, less than two outs and we strike out. So for him to put that behind him and really come and deliver for us was huge.”

Marion scored first when, in the second inning, the Warriors loaded the bases and Corbin Wheeler cleared them with a double.

Hillsboro answered when Brooks Gardner launched a game-tying three-run home run to left field in the top of the third.

Blaine Mermis made it 4-3 with an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning, and from there, the teams traded blow for blow.

Hillsboro’s Hunter Hein scored on a wild pitch to tie the game in the fourth inning, then Marion’s Heidebrecht hit a sacrifice fly to score a run in the bottom half of the inning, making it 5-4 Marion.

Hillsboro used a walk, a single by Jorge Hanschu and an error to tie the game in the fifth. That’s how the score remained until Heide­brecht’s game-winning knock in the bottom of the eighth.

Hillsboro left the bases loaded in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, as did Marion in the first inning. Marion had second and third with one out in the sixth and later, loaded the bases with a hit batter and two walks in the eighth, setting up the game-winner.

“They tied it up at 3 in the third, we scored one and then it’s a one-run game for the next five innings,” Schroeder said. “So every inning is like a small little battle in a way. You’re fighting to maybe not give one up. It was back and forth, back and forth, until we finally broke through at the end.

“I was proud of the way we competed. I wasn’t proud of the way we executed.”

Marion committed four errors in the game, and only two Warrior runs were earned. None of Hillsboro’s five runs were earned, and the Trojans committed three errors.

Zinn was 2-for-3 at-bat. Cooper Carpenter was 2-for-4. Wheeler had three RBIs.

Wheeler (2-0) earned the pitching win with three scoreless innings of relief of Zinn, who went five innings and gave up three hits and five unearned runs with seven strikeouts and one walk. Wheeler surrendered two hits, walked five batters and stuck out two.

Meanwhile, Hillsboro’s Chance Elliott was 2-for-4 at the plate and Hanschu 2-for-5. Gardner had three RBIs.

Kaden Kleiner absorbed the pitching loss, throwing 4.1 innings of relief of starter Jack Parks; Kleiner surrendered four hits and two earned runs while walking five batters and striking out six.

“This was a great game all around, and how a game between these two school should be played,” said Luke Moore, Hillsboro head coach. “Jack and Kaden were great on the mound facing such a solid lineup, it was just unfortunate that Kaden had to be the guy to lose. That was probably the best Kaden has pitched all year and his pitching and resiliency was what kept us in the game.”

Moore added: “Brooks’ home run was a huge momentum swing for us and I was proud of the way we battled to tie the game three different times. Overall, though, at the plate we never got that big hit, and I thought we lacked the focus we needed to have at the plate. Sam Zinn was awesome for Marion at keeping our guys off balance the whole night.”

Marion 10, Lyons 3

Class 3A quarterfinal, May 16

When the Warriors struggled with command early, the Lions built a 2-1 lead through two innings, benefitting from three walks and three hit batters in their first 13 plate appearances. Marion committed one error in each of the first two innings.

Lyons scored its first run in the first inning without a hit. Then, Marion tied the game with three hits and an error, used a hit and an error in the second inning to take the lead once more.

But the Warriors turned the tide with a six-run third inning. Corbin Wheeler led off with a triple to the left field fence. Marion brought 11 batters to the plate in the half-inning. Sam Zinn keyed added a two-run single. When the dust settled, Marion led, 7-2.

The Lions got one run off two hits in the fourth inning before Marion plated three more runs in a four-hit sixth inning.

“Today was a little frustrating,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “I say that for a lot of people that watched, our guys included. But sometimes that’s the way it goes. It was better to work it out now than in a semifinal. A good team could bury you with a start like that.”

Luke Lanning was 2-for-3 at the plate. Sam Zinn and Evann Heidebrecht were both 2-for-4. Zinn had two RBIs.

Chase Stringer (6-0) earned the pitching win, throwing 3.2 innings of relief of starter Blaine Mermis and giving up two hits and one earned run while walking two batters and striking out five. Wheeler threw 1.1 hitless innings with one strikeout to end the game.

Coming—Marion (21-2) has received the No. 3 seed in the Class 3A state tournament and will face No. 6 Cheney (20-3) Thursday at 1:15 p.m. at Kansas State’s Tointon Family Stadium.

With a win, the Warriors would play the winner of No. 2 Cherokee-Southeast (20-1) and No. 7 Sabetha (20-3) Friday at 11 a.m.

The other half of the bracket features No. 1 Hays-Thomas More Prep-Marian (22-1) versus No. 8 Wellsville (19-4) and No. 4 Riley County (19-2) versus No. 5 Humboldt (20-3). The championship will be played Friday at 5:45 p.m.

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