WARSAW – Never let it be said that there’s not a lot of fight in the Warsaw softball team.
The Tigers may not have gotten a win on Senior Night Tuesday, but the hosts went toe-to-toe with one of the state’s highly regarded squads.
Kendra Marshall had some Senior Night to remember for Warsaw as the star shortstop crushed a pair of home runs in a 8-7 loss to Class 3-A No. 1 Mishawaka Marian.
Warsaw battled back from a 6-2 deficit to take a 7-6 lead in the fifth inning only to see the resilient Knights plate two in their final at-bat in the top of the seventh frame for the victory.
Marian improves to 25-1 with just an 8-7 NIC loss to undefeated and Class 4-A No. 1 South Bend Riley this spring. Warsaw drops to 16-9.
It was an emotional night as Warsaw paid tribute to its outstanding senior class of Marshall, slugging catcher Kelsey Dotson, pitcher Cari O’Hara and Sam Bennett.
Marian tied the game at 7-7 on an RBI double by freshman Shannon McCarty with one out in the seventh. The Knights took an 8-7 lead as McCarty later raced home on a wild pitch. Winning pitcher Ariel Sheets, who has signed to play at Huntington College, got her 22nd win in the circle.
Warsaw coach Jim Speicher saw a lot to like from his team with sectional play starting Monday.
“I think we grew up a lot tonight,” said Speicher. “The team I saw tonight is one that can compete for a sectional championship. I was proud of our performance.
“Marian is 25-1 for a reason. We had them on the ropes a couple of times and had opportunities. We just didn’t find a hit with runners on and they did. But, I thought we had good at-bats.”
Marian took a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and second. Warsaw tied it in the second as cleanup hitter Marshall hit a solo homer and Kayla Snider scored on a passed ball. The Knights made it 6-2 in the third with a two-run blast by junior Katie Barnard the big hit. Barnard’s homer was her fifth of the season, a new school standard, and Marian’s 15th as a team.
Warsaw did not flinch. With Marian opting to walk No. 3 hitter Dotson, who ranks third in state history in career home runs with 31, Marshall made them pay. Marshall smoked a three-run shot in the third to make it 6-5. The Tigers took the lead at 7-6 in the fifth on two walks and a pair of Marian errors.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out not to pitch to Dotson,” said Marian coach George Grenert, whose team issued three free passes to her. “It was one of those nights that we had to do that.
“We took advantage of our opportunities when they came late in the game and we’ve done that this year. I thought we were overanxious and jumping at the ball in the middle innings.”
Marshall, who will play at Valparaiso University, was walked her final two at-bats. She had two homers, giving her seven this spring, to go with four RBI and three runs scored.
“I feel tonight was definitely a big turning point for us,” said Marshall, who hit nine homers in 2011 as Warsaw set a state record with 33. “It was a good game for us going into the sectional next week and I feel a lot better now and more confident. I knew we had this in us. It was definitely sad tonight knowing it was the last time I would play a game here with Kelsey. But, once we started playing I was really focused. When they kept walking Kelsey, I was like you really want to pitch to me.”
Dotson, who will play at Indiana University, was emotional following the game. A lot of that had to do with how competitive the do-it-all leader is and how badly she wanted a chance to hit. Dotson has a team-high eight homers this spring and her 11 in 2011 was the fifth highest single-season mark in state history.
“It sucked not getting pitched to tonight,” said a teary Dotson, stopping for a moment to regain her composure. “It was nerve-racking. But, this was the most impressive game we’ve played all year. We showed we can battle. If we come to play like we did tonight I know we can win the sectional.”
Dotson also had one of the finest, heads-up, hustling defensive plays that a catcher could ever make Tuesday evening. With a runner on first and no outs in the sixth, Marian laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt. Tiger third baseman Kayla Snider fired to first for the out and the Knight runner on first kept going to try and advance to third. Dotson raced from home to cover third, took a fine throw from second baseman Kara Dishman and tagged the sliding runner for a double play.
The news was not all good for Warsaw. Leftfielder and leadoff hitter Kaitlin Wiley left the game in the top of the second after hurting her left knee going for a Marian hit. Wiley, who injured her right knee her freshman year, was on crutches following the game.
O’Hara, who tied the school record of 14 wins set in 2007 by Kelcy Martin in a win at Concord Monday, took the pitching loss Tuesday.
Kayla Snider had two hits for Warsaw. Barnard, Cassie Young, Ellen Nagy and Courtney Keilman each had two hits for Marian.
Warsaw plays at Elkhart Memorial Thursday and at Tippecanoe Valley Friday. The Tigers then play Memorial Monday in the sectional opener at Memorial at 5:30 p.m.