ST. CLAIRSVILLE - St. Clairsville played arguably its best game of the season Wednesday. Top-seeded Martins Ferry turned in arguably one of their worst offensive games.
Add it all up and the result was a 3-0 victory, sending St. C. to the district semifinal Friday against Harrison Central.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team," St. C. coach Rachel Duncan said. "My team played their hearts out, and I am 100-percent satisfied with our performance."
Photo by Paul Krajnyak/St. Clairsville shortstop Carlee Gillespie tries to get a handle on the ball as Martins Ferry’s Mercedez McLeod slides into second during a game Wednesday at Market Street Fields in St. Clairsville.
St. C. (13-9) plated all three of its runs in the fifth inning and it was more than enough thanks to the pitching of Michaela Miller, who had Ferry hitters off-balance all afternoon, en route to a victory and 12 strikeouts.
"Michaela pitched the best game she pitched all season," Duncan said. "She did everything she needed to do. She executed her pitches and controlled their hitting, because Martins Ferry definitely has a lot of good hitters."
The Purple Riders were limited to two singles, both of which came from freshman Mercedez McLeod. Ferry had one runner get to third base.
"We picked a bad day to play a bad game," Ferry coach Paige Williams said. "Whether it was offensively or defensively, we just couldn't put it together. St. Clairsville played an excellent game and (Miller) pitched very well. We weren't very disciplined at the plate. We swung at some balls and watched strikes."
Ferry pitcher Shaye DeLeonardis suffered the tough-luck loss as she was exceptional outside of the fifth when she gave up a leadoff double to Summer Gallentine.
After a walk and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third, Duncan opted for small ball. Pinch hitter Kaley Garloch dropped down a beautiful bunt on a squeeze play to drive in Gallentine and reached on the play.
Senior Carly Gillespie reached on a fielder's choice without an out being recorded to load the bases.
Antonia Hummel followed and promptly looped a single into center, scoring Ashley Baker and Stephens.
"The bunting was huge," Duncan said. "Our hitters really came through with that. Antonia's hit was huge. Our defense was stellar again."
Miller went back to the circle and didn't bat an eyelash the rest of the way. Outside of a two-out walk in the fifth, she didn't allow a runner to reach and was the beneficiary of a great defensive play by Gillespie at shortstop.
"This is unfamiliar territory, and I am not a big fan of it," Williams said, referencing the first-round exit. "Hindsight is 20-20 and there's a lot of that. We all need to learn from our mistakes, and hopefully, we'll have a better outcome next year."