NEW PHILADELPHIA - It's been said that all good things have to come to an end sooner or later.
Unfortunately for St. John Central, its 2012 softball season fell into that first category on a sunshine-filled Monday afternoon in Tuscarawas County.
Tuscarawas Central Catholic, ranked No. 3 in Division IV, scored solo runs in the bottom of the fourth and sixth innings to slip past the Irish (22-5) by a 2-1 count in a district tournament semifinal on the winners' home diamond.
''We were that close once again,'' lamented veteran St. John Central coach Jerry Magistro, who has brought his team this far 11 times in 12 seasons. ''That close.''
The game was scoreless entering the bottom of the fourth as both pitchers were dominant inside the circle.
The Saints (21-2) looked to have things going when Sydney Anderson legged out a leadoff bunt single. With the hit-and-run on, Sarah Vinci popped out to Irish third baseman Gina Beekman in foul territory. Beekman rifled a strike across the diamond to easily double up Anderson.
However, Anne Dreher followed with a two-strike double off the fence in right. Two pitches later, left-handed hitting freshman Angelina Fredericks laced a double to left-center that scored Dreher for a 1-0 lead.
St. John Central, which won the OVAC Class A regular season and tournament crowns, as well as a Division IV co-sectional title with only nine healthy bodies, tied the contest in the sixth.
Senior Rosa Young doubled to right leading off. With one out, freshman Sydney Helms' groundout to second moved Young to third.
Young raced home when a 1-1 pitch to Kristen Russell was in the dirt and got away.
The Saints battled right back in the bottom of the inning when Vinci reached on a single to shallow left with one out. Mason Smith replaced her as the courtesy runner and circled the bases when Dreher doubled off the fence in left-center for a 2-1 edge.
It appeared as though the Tuscarawas County were going to add some insurance as the next two batters walked to load the bases. However, St. John Central sophomore Hannah Absalom got an infield popup and a weak groundball to first to escape further damage.
The Irish went down in order in the seventh, ending a season that saw some young girls gain some valuable playing time and grow up in a hurry.
''I think we hit the ball more than they hit the ball,'' Magistro said. ''I know they got more hits than we did, but our line drives were at people and theirs weren't. Their center fielder also made a couple of outstanding plays.
''Give my kids credit, however. As young as we were and to come up here and play the No. 3 team in the state on their home field like we did, I can't be more proud. I take my hat off to them, especially my three seniors. I hate to see them leave.''
The Irish had a chance to score in the second when Russell smacked a solid single to center with one out. Kyleigh Falcone drew a two-out walk and Cheyenne Harris, the Irish's No. 9 hitter, rolled one to second base, but the ball was booted and Harris was safe. However, Russell tried to score on the play, but was nailed at the plate.
Russell also doubled with two outs in the fourth and Harris ripped a one-out double an inning later. Neither would advance any further.
Absalom finished with eight strikeouts and two walks. She allowed seven hits. Her mound counterpart, Drew Abbas, fanned five, walked one and gave up four hits.
The Saints advance to Thursday's district final against the winner of tonight's Strasburg-River semifinal.