3rd in Class 3A
Marion routs Riley County in consolation final, 9-1
Throughout the season, the Warrior baseball team has faced tough games as well as tough teams.
Just a year ago, it was the title game of the Class 3A state championship in Manhattan at K-State’s Tointon Stadium.
A chance to play for a state title the second time wasn’t on the line this year.
It might have been had it not been for a dam bursting on the Warriors in one inning against eventual champion Sabetha in a 9-4 semifinal loss.
Instead, the Warriors played the consolation final between two teams that had suffered heartbreak earlier in the day.
However, being able to go out on a winning note to capture third place was enough for the Warriors, who demolished Riley County, 9-1, and ended the year 22-3.
“I am so proud of this group,” Warrior coach Roger Schroeder said. “That was so hard to play that game, I almost had trouble motivating myself to play it.
“You’re on the brink of a state championship, then you’ve got to sit around and wait to play for third place. The want-to was so good, and I’m just so proud of them. The response this group had was tremendous. We’re one of two teams in our class that gets to end on a win.”
The Warriors didn’t show much sign of heartbreak, with Corbin Wheeler belting a triple to give starting pitcher Jaxton Tracy a 1-0 lead to work with in starting the second inning.
Sophomore Tracy nearly went the distance, tossing a three-hitter with no earned runs to record the victory.
Marion pushed the lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the third with Cole Srajer leading off with another triple before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Sam Zinn.
The Falcons would cut the lead in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly, but 2-1 was the closest Riley County would ever get.
Evan Heidebrecht was 1-for-3 on the game, sparking a three-run explosion with a leadoff triple that eventually would knock out Falcon starter Ty Nelson, who suffered the loss.
The Warriors used three hits for three runs, building a 5-1 cushion heading into the fifth.
Marion broke the game open the bottom of the fifth, erupting for the final four runs off just two hits to nail down the victory.
The Warriors advanced to Friday’s semifinals by run-ruling Cheney, 11-1.
The consolation final marked the end for a Warrior senior class that put two regional trophies and two state trophies in the trophy case.
Marion bids farewell to Wheeler, Srajer, Garrett Hoffner, Jacob Vondenkamp, and Riley Hake.
“They’ve meant so much to this program,” Schroeder said. “I didn’t want to build a team when I started, I wanted to build a program, and we’re well on our way.
“We’ve got a good chance to be a really good team next year, and it’s because of the seniors. They’re the ones who paved the way. They were awesome and they bought in from Day One.”