The Marion baseball team defeated Wichita Collegiate and Wichita Independent on Tuesday to advance to the 3A state baseball tournament, winning both games by walk-off in the seventh inning, 2-1 against Collegiate in the semifinals and 3-2 against Independent in the championship.
The Marion regional was arguably the toughest in 3A with Marion, Independent, Collegiate, and Sedgwick, who entered the postseason with one loss — to Marion.
“There’s no doubt that the four teams that played today could compete at state,” coach Roger Schroeder said after the championship.
Marion scored first in the third inning, with Zach Robson scoring on a fielder’s choice by Grif Case. Taylor Heidebrecht scored later in the inning when Case stole second and the pitcher threw the ball over the second baseman’s head.
Independent tied the game at 2 in the top of the fourth inning. Dylan Seacat turned a double play to end the top of the fifth inning, catching a line drive and throwing the runner out at first.
With a runner on second, pitcher Bret Voth induced a fly ball to right field to end the top of the seventh inning. Schroeder said he pitched Voth because he pitches to contact well, and he knew Independent doesn’t strike out much.
With the game tied in the bottom of the seventh, Zac Lewman reached safely on an error by the Independent shortstop, and Trevor Kruse went into the game to pinch run. Voth hit a single to centerfield, and Zach Robson walked to load the bases. Heidebrecht worked a bases-loaded walk to end the game.
The Warriors allowed one run in the first inning of the semifinals against the Wichita Collegiate Spartans, but the defense clamped down after that, not allowing a run to score. The team won 2-1.
Case struck out eight batters, including the final two he faced. He also pitched out of a bind in the sixth inning. With one out and runners on first and second, he struck out two batters to end Collegiate’s scoring threat.
Schroeder said catcher Caleb Williams called a great game behind the plate. He also picked a runner off first and threw a runner out at third. And with a runner on and no outs in the sixth inning, Collegiate put down a sacrifice bunt, but Williams saw that Case had time to throw out the lead runner and called for the throw to second.
Although the defense played well, the offense struggled. Collegiate pitcher Max Moxley struck out 17 Marion batters. Schroeder said he was the best pitcher Marion had faced all year.
The Warriors’ first run came in the third inning. Robson and Heidebrecht hit back-to-back infield singles and Case walked to load the bases with two outs, and Williams took the bases-loaded walk to drive in a run.
Neither team scored again until the bottom of the seventh inning. Lewman took a walk with one out, and Voth hit a single to right field. Marion replaced Lewman with pinch runner Kruse, and with two outs, Heidebrecht hit a hard ground ball between third base and shortstop. Schroeder waved Kruse home, and the Warriors won in walk-off fashion.
“To strike out 17 times in a game and win, we’re fortunate, but we competed our tails off,” Schroeder said.
The 3A state baseball tournament is May 29 and 30 at Washburn University’s Falley Field, 2000 S.W. Jewell, Topeka.
Marion’s seeding and first-round opponent will not be known until later this week.