It’s been seven games spread over three years since Marissa last defeated New Athens in high school softball.
But behind sophomore pitcher Isabella Combs, the Meteors got that long-awaited win when it mattered most. Marissa defeated the Yellow Jackets 7-5 for its first Class 1A sectional title since its 1984 state championship season.
“You know, there’s not a tremendous amount of talent here, but I told the girls nobody can beat 16 people playing together,” said Marissa coach Laura Robison-Kohrs. “They really believe that, and I think they just decided they were good enough this time.
“We finally got that monkey off our back.”
That’s a big enough feat in Marissa that the Meteors got a fire-engine parade through town immediately following their victory.
The Meteors (17-15) move on to face Gorville (23-8) in the Johnson City super-sectional at 11 a.m. Monday.
Marissa gave Combs plenty of room to work, spotting her a 7-0 lead. Hailey Krause and Logan Laumbattus had RBI hits in a three-run first, and Paige Hand and Laumbattas had the big hits in a three-run third.
Sophomore Cassie Campbell led off the Marissa fourth by reaching on an error, advancing to third on a wild pitch and scoring the Meteors’ seventh run on a delayed steal.
Combs, meanwhile, was nearly perfect, painting the edges of a tight strike zone and using her changeup to keep New Athens’ batters off balance.
“My change up has its days,” Combs said. “Today must have been one of those days.”
Robison-Kohrs’ analysis of Combs’ performance was slightly more clinical.
“We’ve been working together off and on calling pitches,” she said. “She just believed that I knew what I was doing and is really comfortable with her catcher, Hailey Krause. The pitch sequencing was better.”
Combs didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning, but the Yellow Jackets began chipping away at the lead in the fifth.
Lindsey Poirot stepped off the bench to put New Athens on the board with a pinch-hit RBI triple. She then scored on Jenna Alfeldt triple to the fence.
New Athens picked up three more runs in the sixth with an run-scoring single from designated-player Alayna Hundelt and a two-run single from Alfeldt that made it 7-5.
“I started warming up Cassie Campbell late,” Robison-Kohrs said. “The last time I brought her in against (New Athens), she shut them down. I thought really hard and decided if we got into trouble that Cassie was going to come in.”
Combs took care of the trouble on her own, though. With the tying run on base in the seventh, shortstop Taylor Schreiber snagged a soft line drive and doubled a New Athens runner leaning off first.
New Athens junior Haley Kohnen was outstanding in relief of starter Jordan Drake. In 3 2/3 innings, she allowed just two Marissa hits while striking out four and walking two.
The Yellow Jackets’ season ends at 17-13.