ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Prep softball fans won't want to miss Thursday's doubleheader at the Junior Sports Complex.
Steubenville Central and Martins Ferry had little trouble in advancing to the sectional co-final Tuesday evening with convincing 10-0 and 8-1 victories, respectively, against Monroe Central and Shenandoah.
The Lady Crusaders and Lady Purple Riders will return to St. C. for Thursday's nightcap (6:30) for a berth in the district final. The early game that day pits Harrison Central against St. Clairsville, both of whom advanced with ease on Monday.
MARTINS FERRY’S Morgan Stalder is plunked with a pitch during Tuesday’s Division III sectional softball tournament against Shenandoah at the St. Clairsville Junior Sports Complex.
MONROE CENTRAL catcher Kaitlin Miller makes a diving catch of a popup during Tuesday’s Division III sectional softball tournament game with Steubenville Catholic.
"In watching Steubenville Central, I think it's going to be a really good game," said Lady Riders head coach Paige Williams. "I know Steubenville Central is a really good team, so we've got a lot of work to do to get ready for them and only one day to do it."
BEFORE SHIFTING total focus to the Lady Crusaders, Ferry had to deal with a scrappy Shenandoah squad.
The Lady Riders produced solid play in all three phases of the game - pitching, hitting and defense - and just simply over-whelmed the Lady Zeps, who were victimized by a couple of base-running errors.
"We've gotten our defense back on track and I really think that fuels our offense," Williams said. "It can be pretty contagious. Plus, I thought we ran the bases well."
The pitching was provided by talented frosh Shaye DeLeonardis, who sat down the first 12 Zeps' hitters in order before allowing a lead-off triple in the fifth. However, that runner rounded third and was thrown out.
DeLeonardis allowed just four hits, fanned six and didn't walk a batter.
The Ferry offense, meanwhile, came from a host of players up and down the order. However it was the play of speedy senior Addie Suriano at the top of the order and the heads-up base running of Morgan Stalder that provided the spark.
"Addie really does a good job of getting things going for us," Williams said.
Suriano was on base all four times she batted. Stalder ignited the Ferry offense. After getting plunked in the head, she stole second, alertly moved up to third as the ball skipped away from the Zeps' infielder and then was driven in by her older sister, Kylie, on a groundout.
"Morgan makes coaching fun," Williams said. "I looked at her sister and said, 'your sister just gave me a heart attack, now bring her in, please.'"
The Lady Riders scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth and then blew the game open with a three-spot in the fifth, which Suriano ignited with a one-out single.
DeLeonardis, who had a triple in the fifth to start that rally, drove in Suriano with a single and Cassie Hanson, who had a RBI in the fifth, drove in her pitcher with a single. Kady Webb then singled in the third run of the frame.
Morgan Stalder finished the game with a single, triple and scored three runs. Kylie Stalder had two singles, two RBI and scored a run. Brooklyn Monroe also drove in a run with a well-executed squeeze.
The Lady Riders are now 17-8.
STEUBENVILLE CENTRAL, similar to Martins Ferry, received outstanding work inside the circle, timely hitting and was very aggressive on the base paths to get past Monroe Central (5-17) in five innings.
"We prepared well for (Monroe Central's) style of pitching," said SCC head coach Jim DiCarlo. "I was happy with how we hit the ball and we were able to put pressure on them by running the bases well."
The Lady Crusaders watched their first four hitters single and all four scored. Micca Mirabella, who is one of the area's premier lead-off hitters, once again provided the spark. She singled all four times she batted, drove in a run, stole two bases and scored.
Sammi Giannamore, Taylor Clark and Maddy Gulan followed Mirabella's lead in the first inning. Gulan's hit drove in two runs. Tori Knight drove in the final Lady Crusaders' run of the first with a single.
That was plenty for frosh pitcher Alex McComb, who was brilliant inside the circle. McComb was perfect for four-and-a-third before allowing a single to Chelsea Covert in the fifth. She calmly sat down the next two hitters to complete the one-hit gem.
"Alex got ahead in the count today, which was important," DiCarlo said. "She'd fallen behind the count at times this season and it's cost her. But, she battles and makes big pitches when she needs to."
McComb finished with 10 strikeouts and nary a walk.
All told, the Lady Crusaders' offense pounded out 14 hits off Lady Seminoles' pitching. Gulan had a triple to go along with her aforementioned base knock. McComb helped her own cause with a RBi single. Megan Lloyd had two singles and two RBI.
"Steubenville Central hit the ball really well today," said first-year Monroe Central head coach Missy Hooper. "We just struggled to get anything going off their pitcher. We battled some injuries and had to ask girls to do some things they weren't used to, but they didn't give up the whole season."