CLARKSON VALLEY • Marquette junior second baseman Mackenzie Gareau was shaking.
Gareau wasn't shaking out of fear or chill Saturday, she was shaking in excited anticipation.
That anticipation came to fruition as her two-run triple in the fourth inning completed a small comeback and opened the floodgates to help the Mustangs roll to a 12-2, six-inning win over Oakville and send the defending Class 4 champions back to state.
“Before the pitch, I was just shaking because I knew I had the chance to play an important role and come through for my team,” Gareau said. “I really was shaking with excitement over the chance. When I got to third, I was just like, 'This is great', because it helped us eventually win the game.”
Marquette (23-3, No. 2 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings) will return to the Killian Sports Complex in Springfield to face Blue Springs South (21-6) in a state semifinal at 11 a.m. Friday. The winner of that game will play for the state championship at noon Saturday.
The victory sends Marquette to the state semifinals for the third time in four years.
Marquette's offense exploded for the final 12 runs of the game after a solid start from Oakville in the quarterfinal.
Gareau's hit scored sophomore outfielder Lindsey Stelzer and junior pinch-runner Lindsey Wichman.
From there, the Mustangs scored seven runs in the fifth to take a 10-2 lead and added two more in the sixth on a two-run hit by senior left fielder Jenna Schatz to close out the contest.
The big hit of the inning was a lead-off solo blast to left field by senior catcher Tabby Cacheris, who said that, while the hit was nice, it wasn't what got the team back into the game.
“We were down 2-0 and we knew we just had to be persistent,” Cacheris said. “We knew we had to work together, advance runners and get it going. Home runs weren't what we needed. We just had to get things going as a team.”
Things didn't exactly start out well for Marquette.
Oakville (12-9, No. 7 LS) jumped out to a quick lead in the top of the first.
After senior centerfielder Jenna Gregory worked a walk in a 15-pitch at-bat, junior first baseman/pitcher Calynn Gicante scored them both with a towering shot to center field to put the Tigers up.
“We knew, for us to have a chance to win, we were going to have to play perfect because their pitcher is tremendous,” Oakville coach Rick Sturm said. “They're well-balanced offensively and they play good defense. I think the final score is a little misleading. It was tight through four innings. Jenna set the tone and Calynn gave us some push heading into (the game). You're always hoping to scratch across a few more runs. But you have to give their pitcher credit. She was just nails after the first inning.”
Mustangs senior Annah Junge, who improved to 18-2 in the circle with the win, bounced back after giving up the early blast.
She scattered three hits and struck out 10 in the victory.
Marquette coach Amy Doyle praised Junge, and the team as a whole, for not being fazed by the early deficit.
“After getting down against a good team like Oakville, and to consistently pick away, pick away, pick away, that shows a lot of heart,” Doyle said. “You don't like to be behind the eight ball that early, but at the end of the day you know there is a lot of game left. Annah Junge is one of the best out there. She stayed consistent, solid on the mound and got the job done.”
The Mustangs, who took second place in 2015, will take some time to celebrate before preparing to finish off another season strong.
“We're there to show everybody what we can do together as a whole,” Cacheris said. “Sure, we want to win, but that starts with preparing and being ready to go in the semifinal.”