State champ Marceline has four All-State softball picks

Three – Huber, Jordan, Rodgers – first-teamers with Kussman second

By PAUL STURM, LCL Sports Editor
Marceline High School softball Lady Tigers senior center fielder Sarah Kussman swings at a pitch during the Oct. 30 Class 2 state-title game against Creighton: Sherwood. Kussman has been chosen to the Missouri High School Fastpich Coaches Association 2021 All-State second team.
Senior Gracey Jordan of the Class 2 state champion Marceline High School softball Lady Tigers takes a cut during the team's state-championship win over Creight: Sherwood. Jordan, who persevered in the title game despite having lower back spasms, has been selected to the Missouri High School Fastpich Coaches Association All-State first team as a catcher.
Junior third baseman Addison Huber of the Class 2 state-champion Marceline High School softball Lady Tigers strides toward a pitch in the seventh inning of the state-championship win over Creighton: Sherwood. Huber has been chosen to the Missouri High School Fastpich Coaches Association 2021 All-State team as an infielder.
State-champion Marceline High School softball Lady Tigers junior Cassi "CJ" Rodgers delivers a pitch during the team's 10-4 semifinals win over New Bloomfield in the Class 2 state tornament semifinals at Springfield Oct. 29. Rodgers has been selected to the Missouri High School Fastpich Coaches Association All-State first team

MARCELINE — Only days after reaping the ultimate group honor – winning the Class 2 state championship, four members of the 2021 Marceline High School softball Lady Tigers were accorded the state’s highest prep softball honor, All-State recognition late last week.

MHS coach Todd Lowther disclosed that senior catcher Gracey Jordan and juniors Cassi Rodgers and Addison Huber  – Huber as an infielder and Rodgers as pitcher – had been selected in a vote by the Missouri High School Fastpitch Coaches Association to the group’s All-State first team for Class 2.

Given kudos as well was senior center fielder Sarah Kussman, who was named to the second team.

The multiple citations were no surprise after the Lady Tigers dramatically claimed the program’s first-ever state crown Oct. 29-30 with come-from-behind victories over New Bloomfield in the state semifinals and Creighton: Sherwood in the championship contest at Springfield.

What might have been surprising was that at least one more Lady Tiger didn’t draw such a nod – potentially junior designated player (hitter) Ella Lowe with her team-best .485 batting average, including six home runs,  and key role in the semifinals comeback against New Bloomfield or sophomore shortstop Ireland Bloss, whose team-most seven home runs included a pair of solo shots – one tying the game and the other providing the game-winner in the title win over Sherwood, could have been chosen, too, although Class 2 usually is chock-full of outstanding performers around the state.

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Of the four Lady Tigers selected, third baseman Huber drove in a MHS-most 34 runs from the cleanup spot, ripping 14 extra-base hits, including five roundtrippers, among her 40 hits on the season. She finished her junior year with a .430 batting average.

Stated Lowther, “She was solid (defensively) at third base all season and gave us a good power source and overall hitter in the middle of our lineup.”

Jordan, with Rodgers and Bloss Marceline’s tri-heroines of the thrilling games at Springfield, capped her career in amazing fashion, particularly considering suffering lower back spasms early in the championship game, yet continuing to stay in the game at the tough catcher’s position.

She placed the capstone the title-game triumph when she followed Bloss’ tie-snapping blast to center field in the top of the seventh inning with her own 2-runs shot over the wall in left for the 4-1 final score. That came less than 20 hours after Jordan cinched the semifinals victory with a grand slam home run to complete MHS’ 7-runs top of the seventh inning against New Bloomfield.

She ended her senior season with a .438 batting average and six home runs, second (with Lowe) to Bloss’ seven.

“A solid defensive catcher and had two huge home runs for us at the state tournament,” the MHS coach described the senior. “Good leader for our team.”

Righthander Rodgers, who shared the pitching chores with Bloss through the regular season before being Lowther’s choice to twirl through postseason play, went 20-2 in 142 innings of work. She struck out 126 in that span with 10 in the state-title game, including the final out.

Particularly notable was her ability to respond in the pressure-cooker heat of the state semifinals and finals.

In both games at Springfield, she had tremendous difficulty finding the proper release point to get first-inning pitches in the strike zone, walking four of the first six New Bloomfield batters as MHS fell behind 2-0 and three of the first six Sherwood batters as that foe gained a 1-0 lead.

In both cases, she left the bases loaded and then, when she returned to the pitcher’s circle for the second inning, threw “lights out” the rest of the way. New Bloomfield did manage a couple of runs in the final six innings, but could not deliver a “knockout punch” when it had chances. Sherwood was handcuffed more firmly, being blanked over the last six innings.

“She had a great year for us both in the circle and at the plate. She pitched her best when our team needed it,” Lowther praised.

Kussman, who shared the Lady Tigers’ lead in hits with Huber with 40, had only one of them in the final two  games, but the one she got was a very big one.

With the bases full and the game with New Bloomfield tied 4-4 in the top of the seventh, the senior shot a line drive off the glove of the diving shortstop for a 2-runs single that gave MHS the lead Jordan mushroomed a few batters later.

“Sarah was a solid outfielder and a good hitter for us,” noted Lowther. “Sarah was a vocal leader for our team and stepped up when we needed her.”

Kussman finished the season with a .396 batting average.