By SCOTT DAVIDSON
ELKHART – Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco hammered home run after home run in prodigious fashion as the infamous “Bash Brothers” for the Oakland A’s in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In Kelsey Dotson and Kendra Marshall, the Warsaw girls softball team has their own version of prolific power hitters in the pair of senior sluggers.
The “Slam Sisters” flexed their muscles once again Monday night with a highlight-reel performance of long ball blasts in a sectional win.
Marshall smoked a grand slam shot and Dotson added a two-run blast as the Tigers topped Elkhart Memorial 11-5 in the opener of the Class 4-A Elkhart Memorial Sectional.
Warsaw (19-9) advances to play No. 4 Northridge (26-1) at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in a sectional semifinal. Elkhart Central (14-11) meets Goshen (8-20) in the second game Wednesday. The winners then face off at 7 p.m. Friday in the sectional title game.
Northridge clobbered Concord 13-0 in six innings in the second game Monday night at Memorial.
The Raiders defeated Warsaw 12-2 and 13-1 en route to a perfect regular season run through the NLC (14-0) this spring. The Tigers did beat Northridge 6-4 in the sectional semifinals in 2011.
Marshall, the cleanup hitter for the Tigers, went 4-5 Monday with six RBI as Warsaw beat Memorial for the third time this season. The Valparaiso University bound shortstop crushed a 2-1 pitch over the left center field fence in the top of the fourth inning for a grand slam to make it 8-3. Her blast, the 10th of the season and third in the last two games, put momentum right back in the Tiger dugout after Memorial had rallied to pull within 4-3 in the bottom of the third frame.
“I was a little worried after they made it 4-3 and we needed to stop their momentum,” said Marshall. “I had just talked with Cari (Tiger starter Cari O’Hara) before I came up and told her we had her back and we believed in her.”
Dotson followed in the fifth inning with a titanic two-run shot to make it 11-3. The No. 3 hitter, who ranks third in state history with 34 homers, now has 12 this season. Dotson, who will play at IU, finished with three hits and three runs scored Monday. Her 12 homers, which also includes three in the last two games, top her total of 11 from 2011 which was the fifth highest single-season total in state history. Warsaw hit 33 roundtrippers in 2011, good for a state record.
Dotson, for good measure, showed off her cannon of a throwing arm Monday. She caught one runner trying to steal second and then fired a perfect strike to second to get another runner trying to advance. She then had another runner caught trying to steal second, but the Memorial player was called safe after avoiding the tag from Marshall.
“I just love, love, love to throw,” explained Dotson. “It’s a part of the game that I love to do. We have a few things to correct, but we played well. I was standing on first and I knew Kendra would hit it out. She’s a good pressure situation hitter. We were more relaxed after that.”
Warsaw took a 4-0 lead on an RBI single in the first by Kaleigh Speicher and three more runs in the third on an RBI single by Sam Bennett and a two-run single by Marshall.
Memorial, which finishes 10-18, rallied in the third with three runs to cut it to 4-3. Paula Strausborger and Kara Summers each had RBI singles.
Marshall then gave the Tigers all the momentum right back in the fourth. Freshman Taylor Stiver also came on in the bottom of the fourth in relief of Cari O’Hara for Warsaw in the circle. Stiver got a 1-2-3 inning and went on to pitch the final four innings for the victory. Stiver had notched the win last Thursday as Warsaw won 7-1 at Memorial.
Marshall gives plenty of praise to Dotson, who she has played together with since they were about 10 years old, for her success as a slugger.
“I’m going to miss having Kelsey as a teammate,” said Marshall. “It helps make me better having her and I think we both play better together. I hope I have someone at Valpo who pushes me like Kelsey has over the years.”
Dotson and Marshall, best friends who both are blessed with the gift of gab, also don’t mind giving each other the business.
“I’m going to beat the snot out of her,” said Dotson with a big laugh Monday night when informed that Marshall cost her another caught stealing by missing the tag.
Marshall’s response, spoken like a true competitor.
“I tagged that girl on that play, yes I did,” said Marshall emphatically when told of Dotson’s response.
Warsaw coach Jim Speicher saw his dynamic duo step up as they have done all season long.
“We had our All-State meeting Sunday and both Kelsey and Kendra are first-teamers,” noted Speicher. “They responded tonight. They’ve done it all year and we’ll go as they go in the tournament. They are our two leaders and difference makers.
“The fourth inning was huge. We answered their runs with Kendra’s slam and stopped their momentum. I thought we had a flat inning in the bottom of the third. Taylor came in and did a nice job for us tonight.
“In the tourney, it’s all about moving on to play the next game. I think we’re playing better softball than when we played Northridge before. They beat us twice last year and then we beat them in the sectional. I think that bodes well for our confidence. We have to hit Wednesday. It comes down to being able to score some runs.”
Memorial, which loses just two seniors, got a two-run homer in their final at-bat from junior Lauren Strausborger.
Junior Emily Stouder had three hits for Warsaw in the win Monday. Sophomore Ashley Ousley had two hits and scored four runs, while Kaleigh Speicher and senior Sam Bennett each had two hits and sophomore Kara Dishman a double for the Tigers. Warsaw piled up 18 hits in the victory.
Juniors Lauren Strausborger, Summers and Paula Strausborger each had two hits to lead coach Craig Sears Memorial squad.