SPRINGFIELD, MO. • The Marquette softball team was inches away from being right where it wanted to be but fell just short of the mark.
Trailing by a run Friday in a Class 4 state semifinal against Blue Springs South, the Mustangs' final comeback attempt hit a wall when senior pinch runner Tayler Emerson was tagged out at the plate to end the game, resulting in a 6-5 loss at the Killian Sports Complex.
Senior pitcher Annah Junge said there were plenty of positives to be taken in defeat as it took a four-run top of the seventh inning from the Jaguars to dethrone the defending champions.
“To come back, tie it up and then take the lead, we showed a lot of heart,” Junge said. “I'm so proud of us. It's always so hard when you can taste it. South has been here three years in a row and now, in the finals three years in a row, you know you're going to get a good game.”
Down to their final two outs and down 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Jessica Willsey kept the Mustangs alive with a single before Eileen McGinnis reached on an error. Willsey advanced to third and McGinnis took second on the throw setting up Junge's RBI single to score Willsey and pull the Mustangs within one.
The hit put Tayler Emerson, pinch running for McGinnis, on third. The senior stayed put as Lindsey Stelzer hit a grounder back to Blue Springs South pitcher Easton Seib, but raced home as soon as she threw to first for an out. Emerson, however, couldn't beat the throw home as Blue Springs South catcher Victoria Bradley applied the tag for the final out.
With the win, Blue Springs South avenged a 2-0 loss to Marquette in last year's Class 4 title game. The Jaguars will face Troy (26-4-1) for the championship at noon on Saturday.
In the top of the seventh, Blue Springs South (22-6) used a two-run double by sophomore catcher Victoria Bradley to put South on top.
Even though it didn't have enough in the end, Marquette (23-4, No. 2 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings) overcame the 2-0 deficit with three runs in the fifth.
Senior catcher Tabby Cacheris delivered the big blow, a two-run triple, to tie the game. Willsey followed with an RBI double to give Marquette its only lead.
“Tabby is a huge part of the team, a huge rock,” Junge said. “She never let me get down. We have a good dynamic here and I know I can count on anyone.”
Brooke Branstetter tacked on a RBI single in the sixth to score Junge and extend the lead to 4-2 before South scored four in the seventh to put the game away.
Cacheris' two RBI led Marquette while freshman second baseman Jess Willsey and Junge had two hits apiece.
Marquette coach Amy Doyle said she loved the moxie shown by the Mustangs Friday.
“We had a lot of kids come through, we had a lot of good things happen,” Doyle said. “That's all that we can ask for at this point.”
Junge, who is committed to Detroit Mercy, fell to 18-3 in the circle. She walked six hitters and struck out six more. South, which will face Troy for the title at noon Saturday, dinged her for four earned runs.
“We showed a lot of heart coming back from that, and (nearly) coming back twice,” Doyle said. “At the end of the day, Blue Springs had a great day. They're a great program. The better team won today but on any other day, who knows. That's the way this sport works.”
Marquette also dropped the third-place game against Raymore-Peculiar 6-5 on Friday.