STEUBENVILLE - Sectional rivals Steubenville Catholic Central and Harrison Central locked horns in a tight battle Monday at Steve Zamana Field.
Not until Crusaders' pitcher Alex McComb, with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the seventh, induced Katie Parkinson to ground out to Megan Lloyd did Steubenville Central secure the 4-3 victory. The win avenged a 5-0 loss to the Huskies earlier this season.
"I have a lot of respect for Harrison Central," said Steubenville Catholic Central head coach Jim DiCarlo. "(Harrison Central head coach) Donnie (Bethel) does a great job, and Katie (Ellzy) is one of the best pitchers in the Valley. I was really happy with the way we hit the ball today. Our team has battled.
RECORDING AN OUT — Steubenville Catholic Central second baseman Kelsey Grandinetti fields a ground ball as Harrison Central’s Shianne Nameth runs to second during the Crusaders 4-3 win at Steve Zamana Softball Field Monday. Grandinetti threw to second to get the force out of Nameth.
-- Fred Younce
"Every time we lose a game we get a little tougher so I was happy to see that. We still have a lot of improvement to make. We definitely made some errors that were costly, but they did too."
With the score 2-2 Steubenville Central opened the bottom of the sixth frame with four consecutive singles from Sammi Giannamore, Taylor Clark, Maddy Gulan and, finally, from McComb, who drove in Giannamore for the 3-2 lead. Ashlynne Daley then pushed across Maddy Metcalf, who was pinch running for Clark, with a sacrifice fly to center. Ellzy tagged out Gulan's pinch runner, Rachel Dziewatkoski, trying to score on a passed ball to end the frame, but the Crusaders led 4-3 going into the seventh.
"I think, finally, in that sixth inning, after we hit some hard balls right at them earlier, we got some bloops that fell our way for a change, and that helped," said DiCarlo. "I was happy, especially the way we hit the ball, and some of the toughness our kids displayed today."
The Huskies did not go down quietly as Paige Dunlap led off the top of the seventh with a single. Kara Dunfee then drew a one-out walk, bringing Ellzy to the plate. The Harrison pitcher flew out deep to right field, allowing Dunlap to move to third, but an errant throw in by Steubenville Central allowed her to score and Dunfee to move to second. Jess Custer reached on an error and Shianne Nameth drew a free pass to load the bases before McComb finally got Parkinson to ground out for the win.
"They improved drastically since the last time we played them so I can't take anything away from the game that they played," said Bethel. "They had a couple of mistakes at the end that got them in a little bit of an issue where they could have gave it right back to us, but overall I thought their pitcher threw well, they had some nice, timely, hitting."
Steubenville Central drew first blood in the bottom of the second. McComb, who connected for a base hit, was plated by a Daley single to make the score 1-0. Fran Capaldi later pushed Daley home with a two-out base hit for the 2-0 lead.
The Huskies tied the game in the fourth. Ellzy singled to start the inning. With one out, Nameth singled and Ellzy moved to third. The throw to get Ellzy at third went to the fence, allowing her to score and moving Nameth to second. Nameth then scored on a Parkinson ground out that tied the game at 2-all.
McComb struck out eight over seven innings while walking six and giving up seven hits for the win. She was credited with just one earned run.
"Alex has pitched really well for us all year long," said DiCarlo. "She has to try to get ahead of hitters more. Sometimes she gets behind hitters, then you give them their pitch, and they're going to hit their pitch. I respect Harrison's offense. They really hit the ball well.
"I have to give them credit, they hit the ball well against us, but Alex battled. Alex always battles, and she seems to make a big pitch when the game is on the line for us."
Ellzy took the loss for Harrison, striking out five, walking one and giving up seven hits.
"This is the sixth game we've lost by a run, and I'm getting tired of it, but you come down here knowing you'll get a tough game from Steubenville Central," said Bethel. "That's what we got. You can't give them runs, and you can't take away runs from yourself. They gave us a couple of those too though, so it kind of evened out.
"There's no shame in losing to Steubenville Central at Steubenville Central."
Steubenville Central is set to take on Steubenville Big Red today at Franciscan University of Steubenville in a make-up game. DiCarlo isn't looking ahead to a possible rubber match between the teams in the sectional tournament as the Crusaders have work to do before that game can become a reality.
"I really don't want to look that far ahead," he said. "We just say one game at a time. Hopefully we play well (today). We play Steubenville in a make up game at the college so we're worried about one day at a time, and hopefully we'll get better.
"We hope to get some outside practice toward the end of the week. Hopefully we'll be ready to go when we play (Monroe Central) next week (in the sectional tournament Monday)."
Harrison Central hosts Shadyside Wednesday for a 4:30 p.m. start. and starts sectional play against Union Local next Monday.
Steubenville Central 4, Harrison Central 3
Harrison Central 000 200 1 - 3 7 1
Steubenville Central 020 002 x - 4 7 4
HARRISON CENTRAL (15-7): Ellzy (LP, 5K, 1BB) and Dodds. Dunlap S, R; Dunfee D; Ellzy S, R; Nameth 2S, R; Parkinson S, RBI; Caldwell D.
STEUBENVILLE CENTRAL (19-4): McComb (WP, 8K, 6BB) and Gulan. Giannamore S, R; Clark S; Metcalf R; Gulan S; McComb 2S, RBI, R; Daley S, 2RBI, R; Capaldi S, RBI.