Michael Barber squeezes home Laukert in the bottom of the seventh for the win

BRIDGEPORT – Down to its final two outs, second-seeded Steubenville Central rallied for a 3-2 victory over Bridgeport Thursday night in Division IV sectional action on Niekro Diamond at Perkins Field.

The Crusaders advance to district action Tuesday night at Cambridge against Tuscarawas Central Catholic with a 5 p.m. first pitch.

“We haven’t swung the bats well as of late,” Steubenville Central head coach Don Young admitted. “The kids just kept battling and we did what we needed to do in that last inning to pull out the victory.

“Give Bridgeport a ton of credit,” he added. “They are a class team. Their pitcher did a nice job keeping us off balance and I think we felt a little sorry for ourselves. But the kids pushed through and I am very proud of them.”

The Crusaders got a great mound effort out of Chris Murphy. After the righty committed a throwing error in the first inning enabling Bridgeport to score two runs, he settled down retiring 12 of 13 at one point en route to the complete game victory.

“When Murphy is on the mound he is our heart and sole,” Young explained. “Really all of our pitchers are. We rely heavily on pitching and defense.”

Murphy needed 22 pitches to get through the first inning, but finished with just 82 pitches in the game. He scattered four hits, fanned seven and walked one.

Bridgeport received an equally impressive mound effort from southpaw Parker Dyson. The sophomore started Wednesday night, but struggled with command against Frontier and did not make it out of the first inning.

Dyson responded with six-and-a-third innings of two-hit ball. He recorded three strikeouts and walked four. He had a stretch where he retired 12 of 13 straight and the one hitter to reach was promptly picked off.

“I am disappointed for our kids,” second-year Bridgeport head coach Ted Downing said. “Parker gave us a great outing. He didn’t make it out of the first Wednesday and tonight he got us into the seventh inning.”

Bridgeport struck first as sophomore Q.J. Williams reached on an on an infield single and moved to third on senior Jonathan Kreiter’s base knock to right. After Bradley Pritchett walked, Robert Teeman roller was fielded by Murphy, whose throw to first was high allowing two runs to score.

Steubenville Central cut the lead in half in the bottom of the second as Kyle Laukert singled, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error. He later scored on Joe DeFallo’s sac fly.

Things stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh, when Stone Romano led off with a walk. He was then sacrificed to second by Aleks Porreca. After Dyson walked Laukert, Downing brought in his closer Baily McGrath.

McGrath walked DeFallo and Merriman which scored Romano to tie things at 2-2. Michael Barber then executed a perfect suicide squeeze which plated Laukert with the winning run.

“Bailey has been our closer all year,” Downing said. “In that role, sometimes you are the hero and sometimes things go bad. Tonight, unfortunately they went bad.”

The loss ends Bridgeport’s season and the careers of three seniors Kreiter, Cody Reed and Garret Spielvogel.

“We are going to miss those three guys,” Downing explained. “Those seniors are a big reason we have been able to turn things around the last two years. I am excited for next season, we bring back a large group of sophomores and a junior that form a great nucleus.

“I also want to thank my assistant coaches for the time they put in and our parents who are also a big reason the program is becoming successful,” Downing added.

Steubenville Central 3, Bridgeport 2

Bridgeport 200 000 0 – 2 4 1

Steubenville Central 010 000 2 – 3 2 1

BRIDGEPORT: Dyson, McGrath (7) and Teeman.

STEUBENVILLE CENTRAL: Murphy (WP, 7K, 1BB) and Laukert. Laukert S; DeFallo RBI; Merriman RBI; Barber RBI.