WHEELING - Sometimes it's hard to get high school kids to focus. Just ask their teachers.
It might be even harder to get a group of high school girls who have won 16 of their 18 games this season to focus on a team that has won only eight of its 25.
So when No. 1-seeded St. John went into its OVAC Class 1A semifinal with No. 4 Paden City, Fighting Irish coach Jerry Magistro was faced with that conundrum.
Paden City’s Kelsey Loy delivers a pitch during Thursday’s game.
''Sometimes you've got to watch going into games like (this),'' he said. ''You tell your kids don't take anybody lightly, but sometimes, you know how it is with kids - they're kids. It's hard to get kids up for every game. You try to do that as a coach, and that's what we try to do.''
The Irish coaching staff succeeded as Hannah Absalom pitched her fourth no-hitter of the season as St. John beat Paden City, 7-0, on Ben's Field.
''Unfortunately, we don't get to see a lot of pitchers that are quite that good in the regular season,'' Paden City coach Jeanne Fox. ''Our bats needed to come around. We needed to be a little tougher out in the field in that one inning. We had our breakdown inning (the third).''
It was a different feeling on the other side.
''We did what we had to do to win,'' Magistro noted. ''Hannah Absalom does what she does all the time, pitched her game. We didn't hit like we wanted to hit; we're used to hitting. Sometimes that happens.''
Absalom fanned eight of the first nine batters she faced as the game was still scoreless as it went into the bottom of the third, but that's when the junior showed off her talents behind the plate as well.
With two on, Absalom reached on an error that scored Kylie Falcone and Kaydie Coppa as St. John took a 2-0 lead.
Abbey Adams went in as a courtesy runner for Absalom and was brought it on a Morgan DeLuca hit into left field.
DeLuca then crossed the plate as the Wildcats were distracted with trying to tag out Caitlin Sliva.
After Absalom added three more strikeouts to her total, Amber LaMotte came home in the bottom of the fourth on a Cheyenne Harris groundout to make it 5-0.
Absalom then drove in Falcone and Coppa for a second time on a double into left field to arrive at the final score.
The junior carried a perfect game into sixth, but walked Graeson Baker to lose her chance at her third perfect game of the year.
''We wanted to get everyone (into the game),'' Magistro said. ''It wasn't about trying to win the game in five innings. These kids come to practice every day, and I think it's good for them to get into an OVAC game to get that experience. It wasn't about how much you win by or this and that. As long as everybody got to play, that was our goal (Thursday).''
The Fighting Irish accomplished that goal as they sent 11 different players up to the plate, including Adams, a quite little freshman, who ended St. Johns' hitting as she doubled into right field in the bottom of the sixth.
''This girl here doesn't say two words,'' Magistro noted. ''She comes to the gym, works hard. I don't know where that came from. That was one of the best hits of the day. She shot one out there that I didn't think she had it in her to do it. Again, these kids work hard. It's a great group of kids.''
The Fighting Irish will try to capture back-to-back 1A titles, but will have to wait until Saturday after Madonna and Bishop Doanhue face off to see who they will face.