Eagles sweep Pats
Greene County Tech secures top playoff spot, Marion 5A East runner- up for 2022
Marion School District PARAGOULD —- Marion softball traveled on Wednesday afternoon to Rotary Park in Paragould knowing that they had to win both games from Greene County Tech to earn an outright 5A East conference title and the No. 1 playoff seed in next week’s state tournament in Hot Springs. After six and a half innings of the opener, Marion was on its way.
Senior Team Captain Emerson Miller had just turned on a 1-2 pitch in the top of the seventh for a dramatic three-run home run over the left-center field fencing to give the Patriots a 5-4 lead, which would have set up a winner- takes-all situation in the second game for the league crown.
Instead, Tech took advantage of a pair of Marion errors in the seventh to score twice for a 6-5 walkoff victory in the first contest. Tech rode two big innings to an 11-1 victory in the nightcap. It represented Tech’s fifth consecutive conference title.
Marion finishes its season 17-10 overall and 9-5 in the 5A East. The Patriots finish as the No. 2 playoff seed from the 5A East and will play at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 12 at Hank Aaron Field in Hot Springs. Marion will play the No. 3 seed from the 5A South, which is currently projected to be Lake Hamilton. Every Marion baseball and softball state tournament game will be streamed live on MarionPatriots.com and on the Marion Patriots Activities Network mobile app.
“I’m just super proud of the girls because they battled back against a really strong team,” said Marion coach Sean Gray. “We never gave up or threw in the towel. I’m pretty excited now about our opportunity at state because we just went toe to toe with a team that I think will do really well at state.”
Greene County Tech (23-4-1 overall, 13-1 5A East) struck for single runs in the first and fifth innings while tossing up a pair of runs in the third and the hosts led 4-0 after six innings on an overcast day in Paragould.
The Eagles threatened throughout the first game, but Marion’s defense made several timely plays behind sophomore pitcher Anna Hitchman to strand nine Tech baserunners in the first six innings.
“We seem to do a good job getting out of jams,” said Gray. “Hitch is throwing the ball well right now, and we were able to work out of a lot of those tonight.”
The stingy Eagle defense retired the first two Patriots in order in the top of the seventh, leaving Tech an out away from a Game 1 victory and the conference title.
Instead, shortstop Brianna Morquecho and catcher Jacey Holder clutched up and struck two-out singles before Claire Hall drew a walk to load the bases and give the Pats some life.
Those hopes swelled when Kelsey Baker roped a tworun single to right-center field to get Marion within 4-2 and summon Miller to the dish representing the go-ahead run.
The West Georgia signee took the first two pitches for strikes and fouled off another offering before taking a ball. On the next offering, Miller sent a pitch deep to left-center field as the Tech left fielder and centerfielder gave chase, but to no avail, as the ball landed beyond the fence, inciting the strong Marion crowd.
Trailing by one, the first two Tech batters reached on errors before the third batter of the frame coaxed a walk to load the bags with nobody out. Hitchman recorded a strikeout for the first out of the frame.
That’s when Karley Burrows’ third hit of the day plated a pair of Tech runs to win the game in walk-off fashion.
“I can’t say enough how we competed,” said Gray.
“Even down to two outs, we always believed we could score a few and get back in it.”
Miller hit another bomb in the second game to account for Marion’s only run, but the Pats managed only three other hits in the regular- season finale.
Photo by Londa Hamrick