WAPAKONETA — For six innings in Wednesday’s Division IV District
semifinal game at Wapak, Marion Local looked like the better team.
Facing heavily-favored Parkway, a team that had run-ruled the Flyers
less than two weeks ago, Marion Local took a 4-3 advantage to the top of
A 2-run Lady Panther rally, however, took the air
out of the Flyer baloon, and a seventh-inning double play sealed the
deal as Parkway survived with a 5-4 win.
“(Marion Local has)
gotten a lot better; they played a great game,” Parkway head coach Mark
Esselstein said. “Some weird things happened: they scored on a bunt with
a runner at second, a missed bunt gets to the backstop (which scores a
run), but our kids really hung with it.”
Facing the end of their
season, the Panthers brought the meat of tehir order to the plate
against Flyer starter Marah Moeller. After getting behind 0-2, shortstop
Alyx Slusher worked a walk, bringing all-Ohio slugger Haley Hawk to the
dish. Hawk, who doubled and tripled in her first two at bats of the
day, watched two straikes go past then lofted a fly ball to right for
the first out.
If Moeller exhaled a bit after getting Hawk, few
could blame her, but the Panthers are more than a one-woman offense.
After Slusher stole second (and was replaced by pinch-runner Madison
Kroeger), senior Selena Burtch stepped in to a 2-0 offering and smoked a
single into right-center field, and Kroeger raced home with the tying
“Haley Hawk in a (heck) of a hitter, but she didn’t come
through. The other kids picked her up,” Esselstein said. “Selena Burtch
got a huge hit.”
The Panthers weren’t satisfied with knotting teh
score, however. After pinch runner Courtney Leis advanced on a wild
pitch, she stole third with still just one out in the inning. Catcher
Alisa Gray then split the gap with an RBI double that made it 5-4,
“Alisa Gray got a huge hit,” Esselstein said. “Our kids showed a lot of guts, a lot of heart. Survive and advance.”
Hawk’s two early hits produced two Panther runs (each time driving in
Slusher), Moeller had held the Panther lineup in check for most of the
game. The same couldn’t be said of Burtch, who struggled to contain the
Marion Local hitters. She surrendered eight hits and four runs, all
earned, in her 5 1/3 innings in the circle. She walked one and didn’t
strike out a batter.
Despite her rough outing, Burtch didn’t bring her frustration to the dish in the seventh.
“I just had to pull myself together and gut it out,” Burtch said of her game-tying single.
a senior being a leader,” Esselstein said. “She’s a very good hitter in
her own right. She really focused when she needed to focus and drove
one; it picked up the whole team.”
The trials weren’t quite done
for Burtch once the Panthers had reclaimed the lead, however. Moeller
opened the home seventh with a grounder near the bag at first that
Burtch misplayed, putting the tying run on base.
The next batter,
shortstop Sarah Fesenmeyer hit a one-hopper to second baseman Bailey
Bates, who cleanly fielded the ball and applied a tag on courtesy-runner
Rachel Partington before flipping on to Burtch to complete the double
play, effectively killing the Flyer rally. Burtch then snagged a soft
liner off the bat of Macey Griesdorn to end it.
“It was trying,”
Burtch said of her emotions in that up-and-down seventh inning. “I think
(this win) mentally prepares us. It shows us we can tough it out and be
the team that we can be.”
Parkway will play New Bremen in
Friday’s District championship game. The Cardinals handed the Panthers
their only conference defeat, a 9-4 decision back on April 18.