MARENGO – The last time the Marengo softball team played Sterling remains fresh in the minds of the Indians, particularly Marengo senior catcher Taylor Carlson.
Last year in the sectional final, Marengo was poised to advance to the supersectional and move one victory away from the state finals. The Indians were nursing a four-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when everything went awry. Sterling scored five runs to rally for a 6-5 win to end Marengo’s season.
The final three runs scored after Carlson tried to throw out a Sterling base runner, who was trying to get back to second base. The runner had gotten caught trying to go to third with a teammate already at the base. Unfortunately for the Indians, Carlson’s throw got away and rolled to the fence, allowing the winning runs to score.
“Thinking about it gets me very excited to play them again,” Carlson said.
For the third consecutive season, Marengo (28-10) will play Sterling in a Class 3A sectional final. The Indians ended the Golden Warriors’ season in 2012 en route to a second-place state finish.
Marengo coach Dwain Nance and the Indians also aren’t too concerned about their 3-0 loss to Sterling (28-8) on March 29, which was only their fourth game of the season. Nance believes both teams have improved ahead of Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game.
“It’s kind of like a grudge match,” Nance said. “They’re a good team. … They do a lot of things well. They pitch well, playing really good defense, and their lineup is very similar to ours. They’ve got some hitters who can hit who we’ll have to game plan.”
Marengo will have an advantage of hosting the sectional final and enjoy the comforts of playing at its home ballpark. Nance planned to dedicate Thursday's practice to focusing on his team, such as cleaning up defensive communication, and then scout Sterling via video Thursday night. Friday will be dedicated to “hammering home” what the Golden Warriors do and make the necessary adjustments.
“I’m just excited to be moving on,” Nance said. “Anytime you get to be moving on is a really good deal.”
Senior first baseman/pitcher Abby Kissack said last year’s season-ending loss to Sterling was “kind of a stinger,” but the focus is on finding a way to win and keep the season alive. Kissack and the veterans plan to fill in the younger players about the rivalry with Sterling so they understand and appreciate the history.
“We’d like to beat them, of course,” Kissack said of Sterling. “Of course you have to stay humble and play your game.”
Freshman pitcher Mariah Dionne doesn’t know too much about the Indians’ history with Sterling other than the teams’ early-season meeting. But Dionne, who pitched in limited action against Sterling in their first meeting of the season, will be asked to try to shut down the Golden Warriors.
“Everybody’s got to be on,” Dionne said. “Defense, offense, we’ve got to be on our game.”