For the third time in the past four seasons, Marceline's softball team got the best of Putnam County in the district championship.
The Class 2 District 16 champions defeated the Midgets, 9-2, on Saturday night in Trenton to earn a date with East Buchanan in the sectional game in Gower on Wednesday. Putnam County defeated Marceline in the Midgets' tournament in Unionville, 6-5, on Sep. 14.
"Early in the game, we weren't getting the at-bats we wanted," Marceline coach Todd Lowther said. "We shortened our swing and started making contact. The second and third time through the lineup, we made the adjustments that we wanted to see."
The Tigers opened scoring in the fourth inning on Saturday night when senior shortstop Baylee Jobson roped a two-run shot over the left field wall after Ciarrah Bell doubled in the at-bat prior.
Jobson, who finished with three runs batted in and scored three times, said that Saturday was one of the most complete games her team has played this season.
"Those two runs were really big in getting some momentum, and from that point on, we knew we'd stay on top if we could get hits," Jobson said. "(Putnam County pitcher Samantha Bradshaw) really likes the riseball, and we told each other to keep our hands high and lay off of it if we could. We stayed focused on ground balls and base hits. Defensively, we kept everything in front of us, and nothing could get past us. That's about as well as we've played this year.
"We played them close earlier in the year, and we weren't going to let them beat us twice."
After holding Putnam County scoreless through five innings, the Tigers tacked on a couple insurance runs in the top of the sixth. Marceline recorded four consecutive one-out singles, and second baseman Maisie Billups and pitcher Savanna Kelly recorded an RBI each.
Putnam County bounced back with a pair of two-out RBI singles in the bottom of the frame, but Marceline bounced back and exploded for five runs in the top of the seventh to take total control.
With the Tigers at the top of their order, senior third baseman Kenzie Stahl got it going with a leadoff double. Abbey Kussman and Jobson both batted in runs, and Bell kept her hot streak rolling and concluded scoring with a two-run bomb.
Trailing by seven, Putnam County couldn't advance a runner past first base in the bottom of the seventh.
"We were just together as a team all week to keep our teamwork built up, and once we got into the game, it just kind of clicked," Kelly said. "It was a perfect team game, not just in the way that it was physically played, but in terms of our mentality. Everything was on tonight. We have to keep the excitement going, and we need our dugout to keep rocking. Our energy is tremendous.
"To be able to keep winning games like this in big spots is something special."
Kelly allowed six hits, and through the first five scoreless innings, she gave up just two. Putnam County stranded seven runners.
Marceline posted 14 hits, and 10 of them came in the final two innings.
Putnam County coach Aaron Fitzpatrick was highly complimentary of a team to which his seniors have lost three district titles.
"Credit to Marceline's bats, they got it going there at the end of the game, and we knew they would," Fitzpatrick said. "Our offense kind of stalled there until it was too late. You can't just go against Marceline and score two runs, because they're too good offensively for that. I told our girls not to hang their heads, because they sure didn't lose to a bad team."
With Saturday's result, both teams became 20-4.
Wednesday's game in Gower is schedule for 6 p.m.