By Randy Bruns
MARIA STEIN -- No matter what the sport, when the St. Henry Redskins and Marion Local Flyers do battle it's a safe bet that things will get exciting.
Thursday night was no exception when the two schools took to the softball field, as the Flyers scored two early runs and hung on for dear life to post a 2-0 Midwest Athletic Conference victory.
The win improves Marion to 10-8 overall and 3-2 in the MAC. St. Henry falls to 7-11 on the year and 1-5 in the league.
Good pitching and defense was the order of the night, as Redskins starter Kendra Buschur yielded just two hits and one unearned run, while Flyer hurler Dana Hartings gave up only four hits and punched out 14 Redskin batters.
The Flyers got their two runs in their first trip to the plate. Lynn Hartke and Abby Homan drew walks to start the game, and after a groundout, Hartings doubled to score Hartke. When the ball was misplayed in centerfield, Homan crossed the plate with the second run. Hartings later advanced to third on a passed ball but was stranded when Buschur buckled down and retired the next two batters. The Redskins couldn't get anything going in their first cycle through the batting order, as Hartings struck out eight of the first nine batters she faced. Beginning in the fourth inning, though, the Redskins' bats came to life.
Brittany Barlage got things going with a two-out smash up the middle and went to second on Megan Siefring's infield hit. The pair advanced one base on a wild pitch, but the rally ended when Buschur's soft liner was caught at second base.
The visitors mounted one final attack in the seventh inning and managed to make the Flyer faithful sweat up until the end. Buschur lined a one-out single and went to third after a passed ball and a wild pitch. Lisa Uhlenhake then walked and advanced to second unimpeded, as the Flyers didn't want to risk a throw.
Hartings then struck out Lindsey Thobe for the second out, and Hartke made a nice stab of Mindy Siefring's blooper over short to end the game.
In addition to Hartings' usual stout night on the mound, the Flyers defense came through with an error-free game.
"After Tuesday night I was starting to wonder," said Marion coach Gary Moeder about his defense. "We had four or five errors against Fort Loramie that cost us that game but tonight we came through and everybody had their heads in the game."
Despite the loss, St. Henry coach Josh Link was happy with the way his team battled against an elite pitcher of Hartings' calibre.
"I can be real proud of the way we didn't give up and came back at the end to make it interesting," said Link. "Dana is a one-person wrecking crew, but our girls did a good job of adjusting and putting a little pressure on her on the basepaths. We did a good job of coming back, and it should give us some confidence heading into tournament."
Both teams will squeeze in non-league games before resuming tournament action next week. St. Henry will host Anna tonight as a prelude to Monday's tournament battle with Fort Recovery at New Bremen.
Marion plays at Bradford tonight, hosts Newton on Monday, and travels to New Bremen to face the Cardinals on Wednesday in tournament action.