WAPAKONETA — When a team gets momentum, it can be hard to derail.
Marion Local was fortunate enough to hold off a late run by Hardin Northern en route to a 9-8 win in the Division IV district championship Friday at Wapakoneta.
Marion Local (14-14) will play the winner of Covington vs. Franklin Monroe in the regional semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday at Tippecanoe.
After Hardin Northern scored a run in the top of the first inning, the Flyers responded with a hot start of their own, batting through the lineup on their way to a six-run first inning. Megan Kuether drilled a single on her second at-bat of the inning to bring in Heather Mescher and Brandi Rethman to make the score 6-0 after one.
“I just wanted to do anything that would help my team,” Kuether said. “I knew that bases were on and I finally got some RBIs off of that. We just have to keep playing our defense. We’ve been playing good so far so we have to keep it going.”
Marion Local coach Russ Puthoff was happy his team was able to get off to a fast start.
“The first inning is something that you like to see,” Puthoff said. “They made a few mistakes and our girls capitalized on it. They did a nice job of putting the ball in play.”
Hardin Northern (16-10) battled the whole game, scoring a run in the second and third innings and two runs in the sixth to make the score 9-5 in favor of Marion Local heading into the final inning.
That is when the Polar Bears began to heat up.
Micheala Curtis and Molly Wilson both singled to begin the inning for Hardin Northern. Clean up hitter Lea Rowe then reached on an error by Marion Local to load the bases. Curtis scored on a wild pitch and two pitches later, Hanna Fisher had a sacrifice RBI to bring in Wilson. Rowe later scored on a balk to bring the Polar Bears within a run. Marion Local closer Taylor Homan settled down and got the final to outs of the game.
“It was two teams just battling back and forth,” Puthoff said. “They just played really well tonight, and we knew that they were going to.”
Fielding for both teams seemed to be an issue as Hardin Northern committed seven errors in the game while, Marion Local committed six.
“The wind played a few tricks on the balls in the outfield,” Puthoff said.
Kuether led the Flyers at the plate with two singles and two RBIs. Megan Wendel had two singles of her own with three RBIs while Mescher had two hits and two runs scored.
Marion Local hopes to keep continue its production at the plate while cleaning up their defense as the team heads into regionals.
“We’re going to have to work on our defense,” Puthoff said. “Most of all it’s going to have to come from them. Just having them get in their and work on things. It’s been awhile since we’ve been there (regionals). I think it’s the first time since 2004. It’s a big step forward when you have a school like us with other sports having success, winning this district is really nice.”
Hardin Northern kept chipping away, but the gap heading into the final inning proved to be a little too much to overcome.
Curtis, Wilson and London Crist all had two hits for the Polar Bears. Addy Bame had a double and Brooklyn Watts had a double and two RBIs.
“We’ve battled all year long and have never given up,” Hardin Northern coach Jeff Hunt said. “We had a motto to ‘finish the unfinished business’ and we didn’t quite do it. We do have a good chance of coming back again next year. We’re moving in the right direction.”