Marquette pitcher Annah Junge has been on both the winning and the losing end of a state championship softball game.
Most recently, it was the winning end. The Mustangs scored a 2-0 victory over Blue Springs South in the Class 4 title game in Springfield.
In the historic win for Marquette, Junge, a junior, allowed just two hits. She retired the first six hitters and the final six in pitching the shutout.
“It feels amazing to be a part of the first softball team to win the championship at Marquette,” said Junge, who finished the season with a 19-2 record, a 1.17 ERA and an 11.4 strikeout average.
As a freshman, she was on the losing end of a 10-6 loss to Staley.
“I remember that game had bad weather,” Junge said. “Having the wind blowing out was not ideal because Staley had some big hitters that could really hit the ball and the wind helped the ball leave the park. I also thought the strike zone was smaller than usual, so I had to let my pitches hang more to get a strike. I felt like I could’ve performed better. I thought that it wasn’t my best game and that I choked when the team needed me most.”
Naturally, she wanted another opportunity to pitch in a final.
Junge said, “After our loss two years ago, my mom asked me if we would go back [to the state championship]. I told her ‘why not?’ So, I’ve kind of been working toward this goal in the back of mind since then.”
She reached that goal this year.
Marquette recorded a 29-3 record en route to winning the state championship.
Junge believed the Mustangs were capable of achieving a trip to Springfield and a spot in the Final Four.
“I knew if we worked hard all season and played as a team we would be hard to beat because we have so much talent on our team,” Junge said.”We all focused on doing it for each other.”
Amy Doyle, in her second year as the head coach at Marquette, knew her team was ready.
On the ride to state, she noted the girls were in a great mood.
“Oh my goodness, they were so excited,” Doyle said. “They played ‘High School Musical’ and sang along with the entire movie.”
In the semifinal, Marquette met Francis Howell. The Vikings had handed the Mustangs one of their losses in the regular season when Francis Howell scored an 8-6 win.
Before the game, Doyle never brought up the defeat.
“We didn’t talk about the loss. We only talked about living in the present,” Doyle said. “We knew that we would have to be at our best to beat Howell because they are a great team, so we just focused on controlling what we could control.”
It looked somewhat bleak as Marquette trailed 3-1 after six innings. Going into the top of the seventh, Doyle spoke to the squad.
“I told them that they had more heart than any other team that I had ever been a part of and that they could do anything they set their mind to,” Doyle said.
Marquette responded by scoring five runs in the seventh.
“It was truly a team effort,” Doyle said. “In fact, seven of our nine hitters were involved in scoring those five runs.”
It might have been the biggest inning of the year.
Francis Howell answered with a run in that same inning.
“Any time a team scores in the bottom of the seventh, it’s always a threat because the momentum can shift so quickly,” Doyle said. “Once again, Annah did what she has done all season and maintained her composure and control.”
Marquette pulled off a 6-4 win.
Then, it was on to preparing for the championship game against Blue Springs South.
“The girls were ready to take care of business.” Doyle said. “We knew that Blue Springs South has a great team and, once again, we knew that we would have to be at our best.”
In the first inning, Marquette jumped to take a 1-0 lead.
“It took a lot of pressure off of the defense, but we knew we would have to score more,” Doyle said.
Marquette added an insurance run in the fifth inning.
Junge singled with one out. Mackenzie Gareau singled, and Jenna Schatz hit a hard grounder, forcing an error at second. That brought Taylor Emerson, who was running for Junge, in to score.
Junge did the rest.
“She threw an unbelievable game,” Doyle said. “She made the adjustments she needed to control each hitter’s at bat. She maintained her composure throughout the game and did an excellent job controlling the pace of the game.”
After the last out, it was time to celebrate.
“At our post-game huddle, we were all looking at our medals and just living in the moment,” Junge said. “We couldn’t keep the smiles off our faces.”
Doyle added, “I was overjoyed for them and so honored that I was able to be a part of something so special. I knew that these young women had the talent, the tenacity, and the work ethic to win a state title. I am just so thrilled that they allowed me to come along for the ride.”
The team will graduate six starters. Five girls will be returning who have started at some point this season, including both pitchers – Junge and Eileen McGinnis.
“The future looks great for us,” Doyle said. “With both of our pitchers and a number of starters returning, we have high hopes for next season.”