Seth Bertelsman pitched around an error in the fourth, around his own wild pitch in the fifth inning, around a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, and he pitched his Althoff Crusaders out of the six-run deficit he inherited when he took the ball with one out in the third.
But the senior couldn't pitch his way around two walks and an error in the decisive eighth.
Marion scored the winning run on a misplayed ground ball to defeat Althoff, 9-8.
The loss wasted a heroic effort by Bertelsman, who held the Wildcats scoreless on two hits through five innings of relief before taking the loss on the unearned run. In all, the Crusaders committed five errors in the game.
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"Seth Bertelsman, he gave us everything he had," said Althoff coach Brett Isaacs. "He's a gamer. He's a tough kid and a competitor. We were going to go as far as he was going to go ... He wanted that win, it just didn't work out for us."
The Crusaders scored two runs in their half of the first inning on RBI singles by catcher Brett Silvestri and designated hitter Casey Arnold.
But Marion batted through its lineup and scored four runs in both the first and second innings to open an 8-2 lead against Althoff starter Ben Hankammer. Designated hitter Sean Burgess, third baseman Jordan Evans, and shortstop Justin Shadowens each had RBIs during both innings.
Bertelsman entered in relief after Hankammer issued a lead-off walk in the third. He had already thrown at least a third of an inning in each of the previous two days, but his appearance effectively meant the end of the Marion offense.
"For me, I'd like to pitch every day if I can," Bertelsman said. "I was pumped to come in with the hold because I knew we could come back."
The runs didn't come in bunches for Althoff as t hey did for Marion. The comeback started with two runs in the fourth.
Jake Frazier hit a one-out double and scored on a two-out single by Stephen Toenjes. Toenjes scored on a double by Austin Keen.
Althoff closed to within two runs with another pair in the bottom of the sixth. Frazier again got things going with a single and Toenjes followed with a double. Both runs scored on an error by the Marion third baseman.
The Crusaders tied it in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings. Silvestri led off with a double to deep left field, advanced to third on a fly out to deep center, and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Bertelsman.
Frazier singled and Connor O'Dell walked with two out and each advanced on a wild pitch. Toenjes hit the ball sharply toward the middle of the infield. Marion second baseman Aaron Farthing was able to reach the ball, but couldn't field it cleanly, allowing Frazier to score the tying run.
Althoff got five runs and two RBIs from the bottom three hitters in its order.
"Offensively we've gotten so much better," Isaacs said. "We were top-heavy for a while, but we're getting more throughout the lineup. We got 14 hits tonight against a couple of good pitchers. I look at the positive there."
Marion pitcher Branden White lasted seven innings, despite the steady Althoff comeback. Wildcats coach Marty Manfredo said he had little choice in sticking with his starter.
"We're in the middle of a six games in five days stretch," he said. "I extended Branden probably longer than I wanted to, but we were monitoring his pitches and he was right at 100. He's our ace and he battled. I told the kids we didn't make some plays for him and because of that he had to throw 10 or 15 extra pitches. It's tough to put that on him."
Bertelsman started his sixth inning in relief by walking the lead-off batter, Marion first baseman Zeb Goodman. Then Burgess followed with a single.
It looked like Bertelsman might have fought his way out of another jam when Toenjes, his third baseman, started a double play with an unassisted force at third and strong throw to first.
But Burgress was left on second with two out. He scored the winning run on the misplayed grounder.
"In the beginning we dug such a hole," Isaacs said. "I try to look at the positive in that we did come back but that's what makes it tough to lose. We battled and I'm proud of the kids for that. It was a good ballgame, we just lost a tough one."
The Crusaders, who entered the game having won five of their previous six, fell to 10-5 overall. Marion is 8-7 and 4-0 in the South Seven Conference.
"We made some errors, but were able to play around them except for that one inning," Bertelsman said. "It was a tough one, but we'll learn from it and get better."