OTTAWA — It wasn't a potential postseason preview. It wasn't even a conference showdown — not this year, anyway.
It was, however, a big game with a big-game atmosphere early Wednesday afternoon at June Gross Field when state-ranked Seneca visited state-ranked Marquette Academy. It was an exciting and well-played game too, with Seneca hurler Maggie Carpenter leaving the bases loaded to end the home fifth and the Lady Irish putting up a lightning-quick two runs on the first five pitches of the sixth inning to edge the Lady Crusaders, 3-2.
"It did have that big-game feel," said Seneca coach Dan Stecken, his ballclub now winners of 16 straight. "Big crowd, both teams playing hard, and both pitchers doing their thing.
"I have to tip my cap to (Lady Cru ace) Makenna Tkach. That's the best I've ever seen her throw, and I've seen her throw quite a few times ... and I know they've got some damaging bats in their lineup ... but we made plays when we needed to, and in a short amount of time we got a lead. I'm proud of our girls for that."
After the Lady Crusaders (9-4) put up one in the first with leadoff batter Emily Owens scoring on an Allie Snook smash RBI single off the first baseman's glove, Seneca (19-1) tied things 1-1 in the third when Gillian Culbreth bunted her way on and scored on a throwing error. Marquette reclaimed its one-run advantage in the fifth, with Owens starting the inning with a double and scoring on an Ellen Wheatland line-drive sacrifice fly to right, but Carpenter limited the damage with a K and left the bases juiced to keep it 2-1.
With a wealth of momentum, Seneca got a Taylor Bushman leadoff single and stolen base on the sixth's initial two pitches, a Lyda Robinson RBI triple just under the glove and past the diving MA center fielder two pitches later to tie it. A first-pitch RBI squeeze bunt courtesy of Kylie Winsor scored Robinson with what proved to be the winning run.
"We figured it would be a good game," said Lady Crusaders coach Dave Tkach. "We knew both pitchers would have a good day and it might come down to the defense, and give credit to them, they put the ball in play. If we make a couple key plays ... and make some contact with runners on base ... but we didn't.
"(Seneca is) a very good ballclub, they're scrappy, we like playing them, and we look forward to them being in our conference next year."
Emily Owens doubled and plated both of Marquette's runs, with Makenna Tkach (7 IP, 2 ER, 8 K) suffering the hard-luck loss.
Robinson finished with a single, double and triple for Seneca, with Carpenter (7 IP, 2 ER, 11 K) showing incredible composure for a freshman to earn the pitching win, backed by errorless defense including standout plays by Hayley Wilson at second and Cassidy Draves behind the plate.
"I just knew I had to throw my strikes and let my team back me up," said Carpenter, now 8-1 in the circle this spring. "I have an incredible team behind me ... and I know everyone can hit. Even when we got down, I knew I just had to keep throwing strikes, get my job done, and everything would fall into place."
At June Gross Field, Ottawa
Seneca 3, Marquette 2
SENECA (3) — Bushman cf 2-1-1-0, Robinson ss 4-1-3-1, Winsor 1b 2-0-0-1, M. Carpenter p 3-0-0-0, Wilson 2b 3-0-0-0, Flatness dp 3-0-1-0, Helms lf 2-0-0-0, Culbreth rf 3-1-1-0, Morris 3b 3-0-0-0, Draves c 0-0-0-0. Totals 25-3-6-2.
MARQUETTE (2) — E. Owens c 2-2-1-0, Tkach p 2-0-0-0, Snook 1b 3-0-1-1, McConnaughhay 3b 3-0-1-0, Wheatland ss 3-0-0-1, Cowie dp 2-0-0-0, Thomas cf 3-0-0-0, Martini 2b 3-0-1-0, A. Owens rf 3-0-0-0, McCallum lf 0-0-0-0. Totals 24-2-4-2.
Seneca (19-1) 001 002 0 — 3 6 0
Marquette (9-4) 100 010 0 — 2 4 1
LOB - Seneca 5; Marquette 10. 2B - Robinson, E. Owens. 3B - Robinson. SAC - Bushman, Winsor. SF - Wheatland. SB - Bushman, E. Owens. HBP - E. Owens (by M. Carpenter), Cowie (by M. Carpenter), Tkach (by M. Carpenter).
Seneca ip r er h bb k
M. Carpenter (W, 8-1) 7 2 2 4 5 11
Tkach (L, 9-4) 7 3 2 6 2 8