MARION — The seniors were Cloee Kraft’s incentive.
“It’s my best friends’ last season,” Kraft said. “We wanted to win for them and keep advancing.”
Kraft did more than her part, poking a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning as Marion edged Clear Creek Amana, 3-2, in a Class 4A softball regional quarterfinal Thursday night at the Les Hipple Athletic Complex.
And now, it’s on to Indee.
Marion (22-17) faces No. 5 Independence (28-11) in a regional semifinal Saturday at Independence. The Mustangs, who earned a first-round bye, eliminated the Indians in the regional finals last year, 7-5.
“I don’t think we were looking ahead, but I knew the girls were anxious to play Independence again,” Marion Coach Scott Fruehling said.
A junior shortstop, Kraft got an inside fastball and sent it over the scoreboard beyond the left-field fence. That followed Peyton Steffen’s one-out double and put the Indians on top, 2-0.
Jazlyn Grosskreutz doubled home courtesy runner Kylie Kramer in the third to make it 3-0.
But the Indians, who had seven hits in the first three innings, didn’t manage any more offense, and the Clippers (12-22) made them sweat at the end.
Ainsley Schrock’s two-run home run cut the margin to 3-2 in the fourth, then CCA had two runners on base in the sixth inning, then again in the seventh.
Freshman pitcher Megan Kessens shut the door, though, and the Indians advanced.
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Kessens (20-17) has pitched a state-high 232 1/3 innings this season. She struck out just one batter, but tossed an efficient two-hitter that featured 13 flyouts.
“I just tried to keep it up, inside and outside,” she said.
Kraft was 2-for-3 and reached base all three times she batted. Grosskreutz had two diving catches in left field for the Indians.
MARION 3, CLEAR CREEK AMANA 2
4A Regional Quarterfinal, at Marion
Clear Creek Amana 000 200 0 — 2 2 2
Marion 201 000 x — 3 7 2
Raina Henze and Ainsley Schrock. Megan Kessens and Sydney Nielsen. W — Kessens (20-17). L — Henze (6-9). HR — CCA: Schrock (7), MAR: Cloee Kraft (8).
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