Macedonia, OH- It became evident rather quickly what the Marlington Dukes game plan would be in the Regional Semi-Final match-up with Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. That plan was to enter the box aggressively and keep that aggression on the base paths. Mission accomplished, as Marlington romped the Irish 12-3 to advance to the regional final on Friday evening. The scoring started in the top of the 1st inning with lead-off batter Audrey Miller reaching on an error by the 2nd baseman. Emma Jackson would follow with a single to get 2 on in the opening frame. Following a Maria Walder strike out was senior Ava Collins. Collins sent a shot to the right center gap that would roll to the fence, plating Miller and Jackson on the stand-up triple. Fellow senior Ashlyn Maurer would follow with a single to drive Collins in and give the Dukes a 3-0 lead before the Irish even stepped to the plate.
Marlington's Ava Collins
Senior Sofia Nase entered the game with 19 wins on the season as the Dukes workhorse from the center of the diamond. She would set down the Irish in order in the bottom of the 1st, striking out Ella Kim and two soft contact outs. To lead off the bottom half of the 2nd, Irish 1st baseman Averie Mays sent a moon shot over the center field fence 200 feet away, cutting the Dukes lead to 3-1. Nase settled down and was able to strike out the following 3 batters to bring the Dukes back to the plate.
Marlington's Ava Collins
Leading off the 3rd was Collins who started a single parade, followed by Maurer and Knapp. It was Knapp laying down a bunt that was thrown away by the Irish pitcher, allowing Collins to come around and score, getting that run back and making the lead 4-1.
Nase would take the insurance run gained in the top of the 3rd and set the Irish down in order, striking out another 2. In the top of the 4th, it was the top of the Marlington order that again would wreak havoc on the Irish. Following a Faith Savage tapper back to the pitcher, Audrey Miller would again spark a rally. This time, it was a double to right field. Jackson would follow with another single, moving up to second when the throw came through to the plate to keep Miller from scoring. Walder would go down swinging and with 2 outs. Ava Collins would be intentionally walked to load the bases. Ashlyn Maurer would come to the plate and make the Irish regret their decision to load the bases to face her, sending a frozen rope to the right centerfield gap, plating all 3 baserunners and giving herself a stand up double. Maurer would advance to 3rd on a Chyanne Knapp single, but the runners would be stranded at the corners with the score now 7-1.
Marlington's Sofia Nase
Sofia Nase would again put a 0 on the board in the Irish half of the 4th inning, allowing a lone single to Jane Clark. Marlington would be held scoreless in the top of the 5th for only the 2nd inning of the afternoon. In the bottom half of the 5th, the Irish would put together their best offensive inning on the afternoon. Things got started with RF Elanor Talley laying down a beautiful bunt and beating the throw to 1st. Nase would get the next two Irish hitters to strike out before walking 9-hole hitter Kylie Stewart, giving the Irish their first runner in scoring position on the day. The Irish would take advantage of their lone opportunity to that point, with senior Kate Kujawski roping a double to left center, scoring Talley from 2nd. Nase was able to get Ella Kim to ground out to the short stop, with Miller flipping it over to Savage covering 2nd to get out of the inning with a 7-2 lead.
Marlington would once again see a rally start with clean-up hitter Ava Collins coming to the plate with 1 down in the top of the 6th. She would send a single to left field, followed by a Maurer single to left. Knapp would join her teammates in the single parade with a shot to center, bringing Collins around to score. Maddie Bailey would be the next Duke hitter to add a hit to her stat line with a single of her own, bringing Mauer in to score and advancing Knapp to 3rd. Delaney Martz, who had come in as a defensive replacement for Grace Nase in the bottom of the 5th would hit into a fielder’s choice to the third baseman, bringing Knapp home, making the score 10-2 heading to the bottom half of the 6th inning.
Sofia Nase set the Irish down in order in the 6th before Marlington would add 2 additional runs in the top half of the 7th. Maria Walder, who reached base on a walk, came home on a passed ball. The second run was scored by Ava Collins who came home on a Knapp single to left. Maurer was cut down at the plate trying to score behind Collins on Knapps’ single, ending the Dukes half of the 7th with the score 12-2.
The Irish were able to add another run in the bottom of the 7th, with Kujawski sending an RBI hit down the right field line but that was all the Irish could muster.
The win was Marlington’s 26th on the season (post season included, 26-1), with Nase setting a new school record with her 20th win on the campaign. Marlington will now take on Canfield with a chance to advance to the Final 4 on Friday evening at Nordonia High School in Macedonia.