The Marquette Mustangs have grown accustomed to reaching the Final Four in Class 4 softball.
Two years ago, the Mustangs won the state championship. Last fall, Marquette finished fourth. In 2015, the program came in second.
First-year coach Adam Starling wants no talk about the Final Four right now.
“We are not thinking about the Final Four. We are thinking about Webster Groves,” Starling said. “Teams get in trouble when they start looking ahead.”
This year’s Mustangs are on their way. Marquette (17-12) will host Webster Groves (20-8) in the sectional round at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Marquette lost 5-0 to Webster in a tournament. Then in a regular season game, the Mustangs recorded a 7-1 victory.
“We know that Webster Groves is a very good team and we are going to need to play well if we are going to get past them,” Starling said.
Starling downplayed any notion his squad is eager for a rematch with Webster Groves.
“At this point of the season, I don’t think it matters who you play,” Starling said. “The girls are excited to have the opprtunity to continue to play with one another.”
The keys to a Marquette victory, Starling said, it to do what the Mustangs do best.
“If we are going to win, we will have to use the same formula we have all year,” Starling said. “We have to limit freebies on defense and put together quality at bats on offense.”
The Mustangs have two players remaining from the state champion team of 2017 on the squad this fall. The girls are senior second baseman Mackenzie Gareau and junior catcher Lindsey Stelzer.
The regular season was up and down, Starling said.
“Our regular season was filled with injuries. We had six games the entire season with all 13 players on our varsity roster healthy,” Starling said. “It was great to see so many players step up and contribute throughout the season, many at positions that they had minimal experience playing.
“The players did a great job handling difficult situations and kept a positive outlook throughout the season. I was very proud of the maturity and team culture that developed as the season went on.”
When it came time for district play Starling was confident his Mustangs would be ready to perform.
“The girls have been very focused at the practices heading into the district tournament,” Starling said. “They were excited to have the entire team healthy and cleared to play.”
Marquette met district host Parkway South in Class 4 District 3 semifinal and scored a 4-3 victory.
“The Parkway South district semifinal game was a great win,” Starling said. “Both teams played very well. Home runs from Katie Weiss and Jess Willsey, along with outstanding defense allowed us to come out on top.”
The Patriots scored three runs in the seventh but freshman Madison Carney held on to close out the game.
“Maddie Carney has done a really good job for us lately. She has really grown as a pitcher this season,” Starling said. “It has been a lot of fun to watch her compete in big games, and having these experiences will help her development for the future.”
The Mustangs faced Eureka for district title and won 9-8. The Wildcats made a game of it. Eureka scored seven runs in last two innings.
“Eureka has a very good offense. When you play at team like that you have to make the most of your own opportunities,” Starling said. “We were able to capitalize early in the game when we had runners on base.
“During the last two innings, both of our pitchers competed and made Eureka earn their runs. They were not scoring because of walks or errors; they were hitting the ball well.”
Starling was proud of his squad.
“Our girls played great. It was our best defensive performance in years,” Starling said. “We turned four double plays and that was the difference in this game.”
Four girls were the hitting stars in the district for Marquette.
Sophomore first baseman Lauren Argo was 3-for-6 with a walk, a home run and she scored two runs and drove in two runs. Senior left fielder Katie Weiss had three hits in five at-bats with a walk, a home run. She also scored two runs. Sophomore center fielder Sophia Dunn was 3-for-6 with 2 RBI. Junior catcher Lindsey Stelzer scored four runs, hit a homer and drove in two runs.
The district title was the fifth consecutive championship for Marquette. It also is six titles in the last seven years for the program.
“Any time you win a district title, it is exciting,” Starling said. “This is our fifth district title in a row. Each one has been different. This year playing one-run games in both the semifinal versus Parkway South and final versus Eureka made it an amazing experience for the girls.
“They showed so much poise in both games. The other teams had to earn their runs and our both of our freshman pitchers Maddie Carney and Natalie Cox gave our defense a chance to make plays.”