MARION — Just moments after Marion's softball season ended Wednesday, a heavy rain fell and soaked their field at the Crisp Sports Complex.
Marion went into the Class 3A sectional semifinals undefeated but lost 5-1 to a strong Highland team and now has to wonder what could've been after a 20-1 campaign.
Highland, meanwhile, takes its own 21-1 record into Thursday's sectional championship at Waterloo.
The Lady Bulldogs, who swept the Mississippi Valley Conference, knocked off the unblemished South Seven champions mostly behind the strength of Maddie Trauernicht's three-run homer in the second inning.
"When you get two strong teams together," said Marion coach Joy Neal, "it's just like any other ballgame."
The game was supposed to be played Tuesday, but a downpour right after Marion removed its tarp caused an inconvenient postponement.
Highland had the benefit of experience in the circle with senior Samantha Miener, who has committed to Austin Peay, while Marion had freshman Kaitlyn Reuss toeing the bump.
Reuss gave up just six hits and struck out seven, the same number of punchouts as Miener. But the Lady Wildcats had just four hits against Miener, with junior Karris Rhine collecting two of those — one of them being a moonshot solo homer in the sixth.
The game's pivotal frame ended up being the bottom of the second.
Miener started the rally with a double just past the glove of diving outfielder Megan Beach, then Maggie Grohmann drew a walk — the only free pass issued by the righthander — and that brought up Trauernicht, who crushed a homer over the center-field fence.
Highland, whose only loss is to Collinsville, a team which it also beat twice this season, struck again in the sixth after Emma Strubinson led off with a single. Following a sacrifice bunt, Sydney Parkerson ripped an RBI single to center.
Miener doubled off the fence for her second hit, but no runs scored on the play. Grohmann plated the fifth run with a groundout. Reuss avoided further damage by striking out Trauernicht.
Marion avoided the shutout when Rhine went deep in the bottom of the sixth. The blast was Rhine's 11th of the season.
"We never gave up and that's our Wildcat way," Neal said. "I just feel very sad for our seniors and sad for this team because we were like a family. It's definitely heartbreaking because they worked so hard in the offseason, whether they were home or here. It's just tough to see."
Marion's steady senior catcher, Tori Evans, fittingly got a final chance to bat in the seventh but grounded out. Miener finished the game with strikeouts of Jerzy Bittle and Presley Barnett, only a few minutes before drenching rain fell as Highland was headed to its bus.