Pekin coach Bryan Marlay’s career ends as Panthers fall
PACKWOOD – Pekin’s softball season came to a close Wednesday night in its 8-3 defeat at the hands of West Branch.
The loss also marks the end of another era for Pekin. Pekin head coach Bryan Marlay decided to make this season, his 26th on the diamond, his last.
“This is the last high school game I will coach,” Marlay said. “I’m going to be a parent and watch my own kids play. I have two young daughters who will hopefully be part of Fairfield’s softball program.”
Pekin finished the year with an impressive 21-11 record.
“We overcame a lot of things this year,” Marlay said.
The coach honored his seniors by starting all seven of them in Wednesday’s game.
“They helped carry the team throughout the whole year,” he said.
The Panthers hit the ball reasonably well against the Bears but what the Panthers did not do well was pick and throw the ball cleanly on defense. Pekin committed seven errors in the game.
Marlay recognized defense was his team’s Achilles’ heel all year. He said Wednesday’s game was disappointing since his team had been taking steps to improve its defense in recent weeks.
“We had two times where we made multiple errors on a single play,” he said. “[West Branch] is a young, aggressive team, and we just compounded our mistakes too many times last night.”
West Branch was not spotless on defense, either, committing four errors. However, a West Branch defender made a play on a ball that completely changed the complexion of the game in the Bears’ favor.
In the fifth inning, the Panthers trailed 6-3 but had two runners on and Tiana Slaney at the plate. Slaney put a charge into a ball and sent it flying high down the left field line. The ball was headed over the fence when the Bears’ leftfielder caught the ball while running into the fence.
“It was over the fence and she brought the ball back into the ballpark,” Marlay said. “I’ve been coaching 26 years and I’ve seen this happen but it’s very rare. They were playing us extremely deep because we won 12-11 the last time we played them. We have 4-foot fences at Pekin, and the fielder hit her shoulder on top of the fence. She made a nice play on it. You’ve got to tip your hat to her because she didn’t shy away from the fence.”
What looked like a three-run homer turned into a loud out. The Panthers got runners on in the sixth but could never muster any more runs.
Cheyann Lankford suffered the loss. She pitched six innings, allowing eight runs, three earned, on nine hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Lankford finished the year with a 16-5 record.
Lankford was 1-4 at the plate with a double and a run. Brittany Gillam went 1-4 with a homer. Leslie Stone went 1-4 with an RBI. Maleaha Earnest doubled. Slaney and Emily Adam also recorded hits.