Highland outlasts Marion for sectional championship

Darren Kinnard

CENTRALIA — A year ago, Highland defeated Marion in the sectional semifinals on the way to the 3A Softball State Championship. The same two teams met again, this time for the Centralia Sectional championship with Bulldogs winning again, 4-3 in nine innings.

Highland’s Sophia Donoho and Marion’s Camryn Harre took turns putting zeroes on the scoreboard through the first six innings. The Bulldogs broke through in the seventh on Madalyn Trauernicht’s two-run double off the left field fence that gave Highland a 2-0 lead.

Down to their final out, the Wildcats answered as Abbi Sherrard delivered a bases loaded double to tie the game. Highland’s relay cut down Amelia Browning at the plate trying to score the winning run.

The Bulldogs regained the lead in the eighth on Maggie Grohmann’s run-scoring single, but again Marion rallied. The Wildcats loaded the bases with nobody out. After Maecee Coleman’s grounder to third turned into a force out at the plate, Kenley Ashmore grounded to second for what appeared to be the same result, but Highland’s catcher was not on the plate, and Tally Cockburn was ruled safe, tying the game again 3-3.

Marion had two chances to win it, but Karris Rhine flew out to shallow left, and Jerzy Bittle grounded out on a close play at first to end the inning.

Emma Strubinger led off the ninth with a triple for Highland. Allison Koerkenmeier grounded to Bittle who threw home to Presley Barnett, who thought the tag was in time, but Strubinger was called safe, giving Highland the lead once more at 4-3.

The Wildcats did not have another rally in them, as they went in order in the bottom of the ninth, with Barnett flying out to Strubinger in center to end the game.

The Bulldogs improve to 24-9 and advance to Monday’s Millikin University Super-Sectional in Decatur against Mahomet-Seymour. The Wildcats finish their season 28-9.