Madonna softball proving doubters wrong, advances to Class 1A championship

SLIDING BY — Madonna’s Mikayla Sole slides safely past St. John catcher Kaley Bryan during an OVAC Class 1A semifinal contest on Monday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

WHEELING — Losing several key pieces from a strong season last year, the Madonna softball team felt like it had been counted out by others in the OVAC going into this season.

Not only did the Blue Dons make the cut for the tournament, but they responded in a big way to anyone who might have dismissed them in their Class 1A semifinal on Monday. They earned a trip to the OVAC championship for a fifth-straight year with a 7-1 win over Bellaire St. John’s at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex.

“A lot of teams counted us out this year, but guess what? They are here to play, here to have fun and that is exactly what they are doing,” Madonna head coach Chris Conti said of his team. “I love it. I am excited for these girls. They are ecstatic.”

Madonna (9-8), the No. 3 seed, took advantage of errors and miscues by the No. 2 seed Irish (9-8) throughout the game and was in control from the second inning on.

“We did a great job. When they had wild pitches, we ran,” Conti said. “When they (didn’t) make plays at first base or second base, we took advantage of that. The next player comes up and hits the ball. It was not just one person who did this whole thing. We did this as a team.”

Maddie Daugherty went the distance in the circle, striking out five and walking two, also driving in a run with her bat. Mikayla Sole and Addie Backel also had RBIs for the Blue Dons.

“Maddie pitched a fantastic game for us,” Conti said. “I told the girls they played as a team. There is no I in the word team. I have stressed that all year. We had base runners, a couple of wild pitches and they scored. They were aggressive on the bases. They saw the ball.

“They all get along and support each other. That is what I love about this team. It is a great team to coach.”

After a scoreless first, Madonna took advantage of the first St. John’s mistakes. With Gia Riccadonna aboard, Sole bunted and the Irish committed multiple errors to allow both to come around and score for a 2-0 lead, which proved to be all the offense Madonna would need.

“It’s just not a good time to play like this,” St. John’s coach Jerry Magistro said. “I think we gave them about every run. That is part of the game. You’ve got to be able to not have errors. We left a lot of people on base, and you can’t do that in a game like this, or against anybody. It just seemed like nothing was going our way right from the beginning.”

Adriana Lenhart walked and scored on a wild pitch in the third, while Michaela Battista walked and scored on Sole’s RBI single in the fourth to double the lead. Battista singled and scored on a Backel ground out in the sixth, then Daugherty drove in Miranda Sole with a single and scored on a wild pitch to round out the Madonna scoring in the top of the seventh.

The Irish got on the board in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI from Donnie Ruza, but it was too little, too late.

CHAMPIONSHIP TIME

In the other 1A semifinal, top-seeded Frontier defeated Conotton Valley, 3-2. The championship date and time will be announced today.

UP NEXT

Madonna: Plays at Weir High for the city championship on Wednesday.

St. John’s: Hosts Paden City for a doubleheader today.

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

No. 3 Madonna 7, No. 2 St. John’s 1

Madonna 0-2-1 1-0-1 2 — 7-4-3

St. John’s 0-0-0 0-0-0 1 — 1-4-1

MADONNA (9-8): M. Daugherty (WP, CG, 1R, 1ER, 4H, 5K, 2BB) and Mir. Sole.

ST. JOHN’S (9-8): Kull (LP, 3IP, 4R, 3ER, 2H, 5K, 3BB), Lowe (4IP, 3R, 2ER, 2H, 5K, 2BB) and Bryan.

TWO OR MORE HITS: Madonna none; St. John’s (Yaegel 3). DOUBLES: Madonna none; St. John’s 1 (Yaegel). TRIPLES: none. HOME RUNS: none. RBIs: Madonna 3 (M. Daugherty, Mik. Sole, Backel).

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