Big Red shocked in district final

Red-hot Philo takes advantage of Steubenville’s numerous, costly mistakes

FIVES ALL AROUND — Steubenville’s Leah Ferguson high-fives head coach Gus DiMarzio after hitting a two-run homer against Philo in a Division II district final on Thursday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

LORE CITY — The deepest postseason run in Big Red softball history came to a tough ending on Thursday.

Gus DiMarzio’s club, making its first district final appearance, committed six errors and did not get the timely hits that had become the norm, falling to a red-hot Philo team, 15-2, in five innings in the East 2 District championship at Buckeye Trail High School.

“When they get eight hits and you have six errors, that’s a problem,” DiMarzio said. “When you hit balls right at them — we hit four or five shots that were just right at them — it’s a problem. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it doesn’t. Today just wasn’t our day.

“Tip your hats to Philo, that is a good team. God bless them, I hope they win it all.”

Steubenville committed multiple errors in the first, third and fifth innings. In those innings, the No. 6 seed Electrics (22-6) scored three, four and eight runs. Big Red gave up more unearned runs than earned (8-7).

“We dropped routine fly balls,” DiMarzio said. “Groundball, we misplay it. Those were with the bases loaded, so there’s a run. What are you supposed to do? Balls that were flares that they caught, we missed. It is a game of inches, and we got beat.”

One of the two seniors for No. 3 seed Big Red (19-7) provided the lone offense with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the second. Leah Ferguson sent an 0-2 offering from Philo starter Darian Tupuola over the fence in center field. That made it 3-2, and it looked as though Steubenville was right back in the game. However, Big Red’s bats mustered just two more hits — both singles — and did not advance a runner past second base the rest of the way.

“I was just trying to get us back in the game,” Ferguson said of the two-run shot. “It’s tough. We had some errors, but we played hard. I’m proud of my team.”

Philo, which has not lost since around the midpoint of the season when it fell to regional qualifier Sheridan and was coming off an upset of No. 2 seed Indian Valley, wasted little time getting on top.

Camber Revenaugh led off the game with a single, advanced to third on back-to-back groundouts, then scored Katie Pride. She put a ball in play, and Big Red committed its first error. Maiah Bell, who walked, scored when a Tupuola fly ball was misplayed, then Madison Phillips singled in the third run for a 3-0 lead.

“My girls these last couple weeks have just been so focused when they come into a game,” Philo head coach Michelle Moyer said. “Today was no different. They came in ready to play, swinging the bat and making defensive plays. We’re peaking at the right time. We just seemed to mesh after the Sheridan game, and our girls got it in their minds that they weren’t going to lose any more games — and, daggone it, they haven’t.”

After Steubenville starter Madison Fields worked a 1-2-3 inning and Ferguson’s blast made it a one-run game, errors again become costly, as the Electrics pulled back ahead in the third.

Lorin Tom was hit by a pitch and scored on a wild pitch. Bell reached on an error, Tupuola was hit by a pitch and Tom plated both with a two-out, two-run double. She then scored on another two-out error by Steubenville.

“Leah hits that home run and makes it 3-2, and we think we’re back in the game,” DiMarzio said. “Then, they get three or four runs because we commit two errors.”

The Electrics, who also defeated Indian Creek in sectional action, pushed across the final eight runs in the top of the fifth. Pride led off with a double, Tupuola was hit by a pitch for the second time, Phillips and Zoe Dodson plated runs with singles. Big Red then committed back-to-back errors to extend the inning and allow six more runs to cross in an inning that saw 12 Philo batters step to the plate.

Needing four runs to extend the game in the bottom of the fifth, Sammi Cucarese singled and Lakyn Blackburn reached on the lone Philo error of the game to stay alive. Tupuola later got a fly out to end the game and Steubenville’s season.

FARTHER THAN

BEFORE

To DiMarzio’s knowledge, it was the first time a Big Red softball team made the district championship game, though he was not too into the moral victory of the accomplishment.

“It just means we have to get better,” he said. “It means a lot. It’s about the kids. Coaches don’t win games, kids do. Our kids played great all year.”

For Ferguson, being a part of it was a good way to end her high school career.

“It was special,” she said. “We really connected very well. I thought that, because we had that, we would go very far. I’m proud of my team. It means a lot. I was part of the teams that made it (to the district semifinals) before, but this was special. We are a very tight-knit group.”

SENIOR FAREWELL

Steubenville will lose two seniors in Ferguson and Stef Mikel Blackburn.

“They are great kids,” DiMarzio said. “I have been coaching these two since they were peewees. I love them like they are my own daughters. I would not trade Stef Mikel Blackburn and Leah Ferguson for anything.”

BIG RED WILL

BE BACK

With just the two seniors leaving, the core group of Big Red’s team will be back, with their eyes on another tournament run in 2020.

“Big Red will be back,” DiMarzio said. “This team will be fine. We are Steubenville Big Red. We are resilient. We will find a way to be back next year. They will learn from this, and we’ll be OK.”

Ferguson has confidence her teammates will return stronger.

“There are only two of us leaving, which leaves a good bit,” she said. “They have a great chemistry coming back. They are going to go far.”

UP NEXT

Philo: Advances to the Pickerington regional tournament on Wednesday, where it will face the winner on Saturday’s Pickerington 1 District championship between Jonathan Alder and Granville.

Steubenville: Season over.

(Grimm can be agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

Philo 15, Steubenville 2

Philo 3-0-4 0-8 — 15-8-1

Steubenville 0-2-0 0-0 — 2-4-6

PHILO (22-6): Tupuola (WP, CG, 2R, 2ER, 4H, 3K, 2BB) and McCutcheon.

STEUBENVILLE (19-7): Fields (LP, CG, 15R, 7ER, 8H, 1K, 2BB, 3HBP) and S. Blackburn.

TWO OR MORE HITS: Philo (Phillips 2); Steubenville none. DOUBLES: Philo 2 (Pride, Tom); Steubenville none. TRIPLES: none. HOME RUNS: Philo none; Steubenville 1 (Ferguson). RBIs: Philo 7 (Tom 2, Phillips 2, Dodson, Pride, Tupuola); Steubenville 2 (Fergsuon 2).

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