MARION — On a day with wind gusts as high as 30 miles per hour, the top two softball teams in the South Seven Conference met and Marion beat Centralia, 6-2, to break the tie at the top of the conference and extend its winning streak to eight games Thursday.
“Having Morgan Dodd in the leadoff spot to get us going is an asset, and Ivy Smart was able to stay controlled on the mound, despite the wind, until the last inning,” said Marion coach Joy Martin Neal.
Marion shortstop Morgan Dodd went 3-for-4 with a single, a double and a triple, missing out on the hitting for the cycle when she grounded out to short in her second at-bat. Right fielder Devon Davis drove in three runs, one in the third when she was hit by a pitch, and two in the sixth. Pitcher Ivy Smart had two RBIs.
“I was having a hard time at the plate and don’t know what the heck was going on, so that hit in the sixth made me feel pretty good," Davis said. "Centralia is our rival, so it’s always good to get them a little frustrated by coming back on them."
Smart (10-0) gave up two unearned runs on three hits and eight walks. With one out in the seventh, the sophomore handed over the ball to Andrea Roberts after loading the bases on a hit, a walk and by hitting a batter.
“It was very windy and it affected my pitches somewhat, but I pushed through it,” Smart said. “I like to finish what I start, but if I’m struggling I believe in Andrea to finish it off for me.”
Roberts earned her second save by striking out the first batter on a four pitches and getting the second on a high pop fly that the second baseman caught despite the ball bobbing and weaving in the wind.
“I was a bit nervous, of course, but they are good situations to come in on, so I took a breath and started throwing changeups and curves,” Roberts said. “It was a scary moment with a popup like that in the wind, but she caught it.”
Centralia (8-2, 2-1 South Seven) took the early lead in the first inning when the leadoff batter Jaz Myers reached on an error by Dodd and scored a two-out base hit by Taylor Henson.
Marion (11-1, 2-0 South Seven) opened the bottom of the first with Dodd racing around the bases for a triple, but Chloe Wendling stranded her there.
“Chloe pitched well today,” said Centralia coach Mallory Ruggles-Kauling. “Those two innings were on us when we didn’t make adjustments. They came up with timely hitting and we didn’t. We’re leaving too many runners in scoring position.
Smart set down the side in order in the second, pitched around a one-out single in third and didn’t give up another hit until a one-out single in the seventh.
In between Smart was able to pitch around one-out back-to-back walks in the fourth and a two-out bases loaded jam in the fifth, which was the result of an error followed by two walks.
Smart gave up her second run in the sixth when she walked two batters with two outs and the lead runner scored on an errant pickoff attempt by catcher Kaylee Evans.
With runners at second and third and two outs, Smart struck out the next batters to end the threat and hold onto to the lead, 3-2.
Marion scored three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth with two outs, starting with Dodd hitting the first pitch into short left and advancing to second when the throw was late coming in.
After a wild pitch, Wendling walked Hannah Nalley and gave up a bloop single to Keira Hance to drive in Dodd and bring Devon Davis to plate with runners at the corners. Davis, who was dealing with a swollen left wrist from being hit in the third inning, hit a 2-1 pitch up the middle to clear the bases and up the lead to 6-2.
Marion took the lead in the third when Wendling hit the leadoff batter Morgan Andrews on the wrist on a 1-0 pitch. One out later ,the senior right-hander hit Nalley on the back on a 2-2 pitch before walking Hance on her third 3-2 pitch to bring Davis to the plate with the bases loaded.
Davis was struck by Wendling on a 2-2 pitch to force in the tying run. Wendling got ahead of Smart 0-2, but after a low outside pitch, Smart lined the next to left center driving in two more runs to give the Wildcats a 3-1 lead.