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Big Red concludes emotional home opener with win

Lakyn Blackburn

STEUBENVILLE — The Steubenville softball team capped an emotional home opener with a big victory.

Led by a solid outing from pitcher Jules King and enough timely hitting, Big Red blanked River, 9-0, Saturday afternoon at the Franciscan University of Steubenville Softball Field.

“We were not happy with our performance,” Big Red (5-3) head coach Gus DiMarzio said. “We were not happy with our start. We can play a lot better than we did. A win is a win, and you have to be happy with a win.”

The Pilots had difficulty making good contact against King with only five baserunners total.

“Their pitcher pitched well,” River (5-2) head coach Dave Wright said. “I wish her luck throughout the rest of the year. 

“Defensively, we only had three errors and a passed ball. We played good defense. It is hard to defend gappers.”

King struck out 13, en route to the shutout victory. She gave up two hits, walked two and plunked one.

“She pitched well,” DiMarzio said. “She missed some spots. She was Jules. She is a good pitcher. She is tough. If you would talk to her, she would tell you there were some things she could have done better (Saturday). She will be ready to go (today).”

King also had six assists on balls hit right back at her.

Katie Lively took the loss for the Pilots. She struck out two and walked two, while allowing nine runs on nine hits. 

Steubenville’s Mary Marshall tallied three singles, four RBIs and three steals to lead the way, Lakyn Blackburn collected a single and two RBIs, and Amaria Swearengen recorded a run-scoring double. Also, King contributed two base hits and three steals, Adrianna Brown added a single and an RBI and Tori Mitchell delivered a single. 

Big Red scored at least one run in four innings, but the hosts left a runner at third base in each of the first three.

“We are guessing at the plate,” DiMarzio said. “Guessing leads to bad things. You leave runners on base. We look like we don’t have a clue at the plate. That is my fault. It is ridiculous.”

Raylee Schmidt and Hannah Nevins each produced a base hit for the Pilots.

“They had a plan, and they worked that plan,” said DiMarzio when asked if he knew what to expect from River. “They did not do anything different. The only difference was we did not play well.”

Speed played a key role for Big Red, as its base runners took advantage of opportunities to advance on the base paths.

King started the bottom of the first with a single. She promptly stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a RBI groundout by Blackburn, giving Big Red the early 1-0 lead.

King walked to start the third frame. She once again stole second and moved to third on a single by Blackburn, who moved up to second on the throw back to the infield. Marshall followed with a single, scoring King and making it 2-0, and she advanced to second on the throw home. Brown brought Blackburn home with a groundout, increasing Big Red’s advantage to 3-0.

Steubenville added three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to break the game wide open.

Adrianna Norris reached on an error to begin the fifth, and she was replaced on the bases by Gracey Bowman. King then reached on another error before stealing second for the third time. Bowman scored on the miscue. Swearengen followed with an RBI double, and Marshall singled home King to make the score 6-0.

Blackburn recorded an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the sixth before Marshall followed with a two-run single to increase Big Red’s advantage to 9-0. 

“It is always nice to play at home,” DiMarzio said. “After losing last season, it would matter if we were playing at Kroger. These kids are dying to play. They want to be outside. The want to be out in the sunshine. They just want to be able to play. I can think of about five girls who would love to be out in the dirt.”

HONORING BARKER

Prior to the start of the game, Big Red had a ceremony honoring former player and graduate Mytia Barker, who was murdered on Aug. 9.

“Mytia was my best softball player,” DiMarzio said. “She was a very close friend. She was like a daughter to me. It was an unnecessary death. It was hard to believe. I thought I could make it all the way through the ceremony, but I couldn’t do it. I tried.

“She was the heart and soul of the team. She was tough. She had a lot of mental toughness. She was intelligent. She saw things on the field. She was unmatched in that regard. I have coached a lot of kids, but nobody was like that. I have coached a lot of good kids. I have coached kids who have been all-state and who have gone on to play in college. She was just a different kid. I don’t understand it.”

UP NEXT

River: Tentatively travels to Toronto on Monday.

Steubenville: Tentatively travels to Oak Glen on Monday for the Golden Bears’ season opener.

Steubenville 9, River 0

River   0-0-0 0-0-0 0 — 0 2 3

Steubenville 1-0-2 0-3-3 x — 9 9 0

RIVER (5-2): Lively (LP, 9R, 9H, 2K, 2BB) and Rufener. Schmidt S; Nevins S.

STEUBENVILLE (5-3): King (WP, 0R, 2H, 13K, 2BB) and Swearengen. King 2S; Swearengen D, RBI; Blackburn S, 2RBI; Marshall 3S, 4RBI; Brown S, RBI; Mitchell S.

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