ST. CLAIRSVILLE - St. Clairsville had been shut out in back-to-back losses to Martins Ferry (10-0, 6 inn.) and Wheeling Park (8-0, 5 inn.).
Thursday afternoon, needing a win in the worst of ways to keep their OVAC Class 4A playoff hopes alive, the Red Devils (8-6) scored only once, but it was enough to knock St. John Central from the ranks of the unbeaten, 1-0, on Lady Red Devils Field.
"We definitely needed to redeem ourselves," St. Clairsville head coach Rachel Duncan admitted. "I'm proud of our girls for coming off two tough losses like that. Tonight was the way I know we can play ball. We brought it. We came to win, and we got it done."
Lauren Figura's mammoth home run leading off the fourth accounted for the only run of the game. She drilled a 2-2 pitch well over the fence in left-center. The shot cleared the port-a-john and crashed landed into a white pickup truck.
"It only takes one," a laughing Duncan said about her team only getting two hits. "They (St. John) have a very good pitcher."
Duncan would know that first-hand as Hannah Absalom tossed a no-hitter at the Red Devils last season. Back-to-back no-nos went by the wayside quickly as leadoff hitter Carlee Gillespie looped an infield single over the head of Irish (13-1) third baseman Caitlin Sliva.
Absalom finished with eight strikeouts and a pair of walks. She also had the game's only multi-hit performance with a pair of singles.
Figura not only did it at the plate, but inside the circle as well, She didn't strike out a batter and only yielded one free pass. She scattered eight hits - all singles.
St. John Central stranded all eight baserunners, including two in the second, third and fifth innings, and only got one runner to third base. That was in the fifth when Absalom and Morgan DeLuca had consecutive two-out singles, with Natalie Cervelli taking over for DeLuca on the basepaths. Both runners moved up on a passed ball, but Figura got an inning-ending grounder to short to escape without any damage.
"Lauren did a very good job today," Duncan allowed. "She didn't overpower them, but she made them hit the ball and we played a very good all-around game."
Despite his team's initial setback, veteran Irish head coach Jerry Magistro was pleased with his team's hitting.
"What I'm happy about today, and don't get me wrong because nobody likes to lose and we take pride in winning, but we had 21 outs and not one of them was a strikeout," he said. "We had eight hits to their two.
"Actually we played a really good all-around game," he continued. "We gave up the one hit that proved to be the difference. One mistake, that was it, but that girl can hit the ball."
St. Clairsville will look to keep its momentum going when it treks to Wintersville today to meet Indian Creek. St. John Central is idle today before hosting Beallsville Saturday.
St. John Central 000 000 0 - 0 8 0
St. Clairsville 000 100 x - 1 2 0
Batteries: Absalom and DeLuca. Figura and Gillespie
North can be reached at email@example.com