The Marion baseball team won a Class 3A regional championship Wednesday at Southeast of Saline.
The No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Warriors received a first-round bye, then knocked off a pair of Trojan teams to win the title and earn a trip to state.
The Warriors defeated the Hillsboro Trojans in six innings in the semifinals, 13-3, then defeated the Trojans from Beloit in the championship, 13-9.
Beloit—Marion endured a rough start to Wednesday’s regional championship game. After taking a 2-1 lead when Evann Heidebrecht hit a first-inning two-run double, that advantage disappeared in the second inning. When Marion starter Nathan Baldwin struggled with command, Beloit scratched three runs across, using a single, a pair of walks and three hit batters.
In the third inning, Beloit grew its lead to 6-2 with a pair of doubles. Corbin Wheeler entered to secure the final two outs of the half-inning.
Sam Zinn worked a bases-loaded walk in the bottom half of the inning to make it 6-3.
Things got a little chippy in the fourth inning with a contested call on a potential play at third, and Beloit used an RBI triple to extend its lead, 7-3.
But Marion took advantage of four Trojan errors in the bottom half of the inning to score four runs without a hit. By the end of the inning, the score was tied, 7-7.
“We put the ball in play hard on the ground and made them make plays,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “We benefitted from some errors, but at this level, you’ve got to compete and put the ball in play and make them get you out.
“I think once that game got back knotted up at 7-7, for us it erased a bad start, and then it was like, ‘Okay, now we’ve got a three-inning game to go play,’ and we did a great job of executing.”
After Wheeler worked around a one-out walk in the scoreless top of the fifth, Marion kept its momentum rolling in the bottom half of the inning.
Beloit’s starter, Hudson Smith, reached his pitch limit one batter in, and Peyton Heidebrecht keyed the four-run frame with a two-RBI single.
A sixth-inning, two-run double by the Trojans made it 11-9, but Marion got the two runs back in the bottom half of the inning when Peyton Heidebrecht drove in a run with a double, and Wheeler followed with a ground-rule double that also scratched a run across. That brought it to the final, four-run spread.
Wheeler (2-0) earned the pitching win. In 32⁄3 innings of relief, he gave up five hits and three runs (all earned). He walked two batters and struck out two.
Peyton Heidebrecht was 2-for-3 at-bat and drove in three runs.
Hillsboro—Wednesday’s semifinal matchup between two Marion County schools at Southeast of Saline was a back-and-forth affair early in the game.
The Warriors built a 3-0 lead by scoring two runs in the first inning off Peyton Heidebrecht’s RBI double and Nathan Baldwin’s RBI single, then plated a third run off one hit and an error in the second inning.
Hillsboro responded by tying the game with a two-hit, three-run top of the third inning, in which Marion made four errors. Kaden Kleiner hit a one-out triple and scored when Caleb Potucek reached base via error. Jorge Hanschu later hit a single in the frame.
But Marion took the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning. Peyton Heidebrecht keyed the two-hit, four-run frame with a two-run single.
The Warriors used one hit to plate one run in the fourth inning, then extended their lead to 10-3 when Corbin Wheeler hit a fifth-inning, two-run single.
Marion scratched across three runs off four hits in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Jacob Vondenkamp hit a ground-rule double, Cole Srajer and Mason Pedersen drove in back-to-back runs with RBI triples. Wheeler later drove in the winning run with a walk-off RBI single, bringing it to the final, 10-run spread.
“We put balls in play, made them make plays,” coach Roger Schroeder said. “We used our speed. The game kind of snowballed on them, and that’s us. We’re inflicting that. Blaine did a great job on the mound. He threw the whole six innings, did a great job of pitching to contact. He gave up some hits, gave up some runs. We didn’t make a couple plays behind him or else that game’s probably over a little bit earlier. But we did a really good job.”
Hillsboro recorded two hits in the fourth inning and stranded two base-runners, then knocked out one hit each in both the fifth and sixth innings.
Five Warriors recorded two hits: Wheeler, Srajer, Seth Savage, Pedersen and Peyton Heidebrecht. Wheeler and Peyton Heidebrecht each had three RBIs.
Mermis (5-0) earned the pitching win. In six innings, he gave up seven hits and three runs (one earned). He walked no one and struck out five Trojans.
Ben Koop and Potucek were both 2-for-3 at-bat.
The Trojans conclude their season with an overall record of 6-16.
Coming—Marion (21-1) has received the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A state tournament at Kansas State’s Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan May 25-26.
The Warriors will face No. 7 Hays-Thomas More Prep-Marian (13-8) Thursday at 11 a.m. With a win, Marion would face the winner of No. 3 Mission Valley (19-2) and No. 6 Cherokee-Southeast (13-8) Friday at 11 a.m.
The other half of the bracket features No. 1 Wichita Independent (22-1) versus No. 8 Galena (12-11) and No. 4 Silver Lake (16-5) versus No. 5 Oskaloosa (15-6).
The championship will be played Friday at 5:45 p.m.
Tickets cost $8 for adults, $6 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We know we’re going to have to go and play our best and try to get to Friday, so that’s the plan,” Schroeder said. “We’ll empty the tank on Thursday to try to get to Friday. We’ll figure Friday out when we get there, if we get there. I think we have a chance to make a run. I think we have the depth to make a run. But it’s going to come down to execution, just like any other game.”