CADIZ - As softball teams begin to heavily study and try to project the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference standings, Martins Ferry just keeps on keepin' on.
The Purple Riders took another step toward solidifying the top seed in next week's Class 4A tournament at windy Sally Buffalo Park by virtue of a hard-earned 3-2 victory against Harrison Central in a game that lasted an economical 58 minutes. The win is the seventh straight for Purple Riders.
The Riders amassed just two hits off of Robert Morris commit Katie Ellzy. Both were solidly struck singles from hard-hitting freshman Mercedez McLeod.
However, neither of those played any role in the Martins Ferry scoring.
"It's fun when you get base runners on and you can do something with them," Williams said.
For years, the Martins Ferry (10-3) recipe for success has included more than a hint of small ball. However, this season, the Purple has done it in a bevy of ways with McLeod and sophomore shortstop Tyrah King giving opposing pitchers fits in the heart of the Ferry order.
Against the Huskies, who are now 7-4 and battling for the OVAC Tournament life, Ferry went back to what's worked for years.
"Martins Ferry has an incredible, uncanny ability to manufacture runs without a hit," Harrison Central head coach Donnie Bethel said. "All of their runs were with zero hits, so you have to give credit where credit's due."
Ferry struck for a run in the first inning. Senior Morgan Stalder was plunked on the second pitch of the game.
Brooklyn Monroe then sacrificed her to second and she moved to third on a ground out by King. The Huskies attempted to make a play on her at third and the ball kicked away and Stalder raced home.
"That's why Morgan is our lead-off hitter," Williams said. "You get her on base, and chances are pretty good that she's going to get around them."
Ferry made it 2-0 in the second. Sophomore pitcher Shaye DeLeonardis, who was once again impressive in the circle, reached on an error. She stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and then scored when Krissy Hotlosz rolled out to second.
The Huskies got a run back in their half of the second when Paige Richards laced the first of her two hits back through the middle.
The game remained 2-1 until the bottom of the fifth when Harrison Central pushed across a run. Richards led off with a double to right and then came around to score two hitters later on a single by Lindsay Dowdle.
"We've battled Ferry before, but until we can hit the quality pitchers, then we're just going to be an average ball club that relies on Katie Ellzy to throw a shutout every game, and you can't do that," Bethel said.
In the top of the sixth, Stalder led off and was plunked again. Two stolen bases and one out later, King grounded out to second, driving in the game-winning run.
Harrison got a runner aboard in both the sixth and seventh innings, but she never moved past first base.
"Shaye has the confidence that the (fielders) have her back," Williams said.
DeLeonardis fanned four and issued just one walk in the complete-game effort.
Ellzy, meanwhile, certainly deserved a better fate. She struck out seven and didn't walk a batter.
Harrison Central is off today and will visit Wheeling Park on Thursday. Martins Ferry hosts St. Clairsville this afternoon.
Martins Ferry 3, Harrison Central 2
Martins Ferry 110 001 0 - 3 2 1
Harrison Central 010 010 0 - 2 5 2
MARTINS FERRY: DeLeonardis (WP, 4K, 1BB) and Hotlosz. McLeod 2S; King, RBI; Hotlosz RBI.
HARRISON CENTRAL: Ellzy (LP, 7K, 0BB) and Jones. Nameth S, D, RBI; Dowdle 2S, RBI.