ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Bellaire's seventh-seeded Lady Reds were looking to make an opening round statement as Monday's Division III Softball Sectional opened.
Up against No. 1-seeded Steubenville Catholic Central, Melissa Lahna's combine could not quite pull off an upper-bracket upset.
Facing an uphill battle all afternoon, Bellaire eventually rallied from a 3-0 deficit to forge a 3-3 seventh-inning deadlock.
SMALL BALL — Steubenville Catholic Central’s Micca Mirabella bunts the ball during Monday’s 4-3 win over Bellaire in the Ohio Division III sectional tournament in St. Clairsville.
-- Seth Staskey
But Jim DiCarlo's Crusaders answered dramatically, scoring with one out in their final at-bat for a 4-3 victory.
"We had a few chances to maybe break the game open early but give Bellaire credit, they minimized the damage," DiCarlo advised. "Never did we feel this was going to come easy. But I thought we hit the ball with authority and (pitcher) Paige Creamer was solid."
Monday's loss was not easy to take for Lahna, who had her club convinced it could knock off the talented Crusaders.
"I think our girls were disappointed (with the seven seed) and they played like they had something to prove," she described.
"We made a few mistakes that hurt, but the effort was just outstanding."
Central, improving to 20-6, advances to Thursday's upper bracket co-title tilt (4:30 p.m.) against St. Clairsville, a 10-1 second-game victor against Union Local.
DiCarlo labeled Monday's decision, "a great team effort. Everyone one through nine in our lineup hit the ball and had a role in this win. Hopefully, we carry this over."
Creamer was masterful, firing a five-hitter.
She recorded six strikeouts and issued one walk. Bellaire junior Meagan Ging took the loss. She fanned two and also walked a pair.
Central's leadoff hitter Micca Mirabella singled to start the game and later scored when Creamer reached on one of Bellaire's four fielding errors. Ging, however, was able to strand three baserunners.
It became 2-0 in the second. Right fielder Sara Moziejko reached on a Bellaire bobble and scored on Alle Vandeborne's ground ball.
Crusaders' frosh third baseman Ashlynne Daley drilled a one-out triple in the third and raced home on a base knock off the bat of designated player Kayla Lloyd.
Bellaire worked its way back, beginning in the fifth when sophomore Mackenzie Conroy crushed a triple to deep center.
Freshman Elisha Gillespie followed with an opposite-field double and it was 3-1. Gillespie was later cut down at third base, one of three Lady Reds thrown out on the basepaths.
Lady Reds' second baseman Taylar Canter connected for a run-scoring triple in the sixth, plating designated player Talia Duffy.
Bellaire's first two runners reached in the seventh. First baseman Maci Cordy singled and shortstop Katie Fry reached on an error.
But Fry would be cut down attempting to steal on a perfect throw from Crusaders' catcher Taylor Clark.
Conroy's ground ball brought Cordy home for a 3-3 tie before Creamer came back to record a third out.
Central responded to win it with left fielder Maddy Gulan stroking a leadoff single, then racing to third when the ball bounced to the fence.
Following a walk to Clark, Daley delivered the game-winner, drilling a single to left field.
Daley and No. 9 hitter Tori Knight generated two hits apiece. Bellaire, meanwhile, capped a 12-13 campaign.
"I'm not gonna feel bad about our season," Lahna stressed. "We played every opponent tough and lost probably more than our share of tough games.
"We lose four solid seniors but our program is definitely moving in the right direction."
Catholic Central 4, Bellaire 3
Bellaire 000 011 1 - 3 5 4
Catholic Central 111 000 1 - 4 9 2
BELLAIRE (12-13): Ging (LP, 2K, 2BB) and Garloch; Canter T, RBI; Conroy T, RBI; Gillespie D, RBI.
CATHOLIC CENTRAL (20-6): Creamer (WP, 6K, 1BB) and Clark; Daley T, S, RBI; Knight 2S; Lloyd S, RBI; Vandeborne S, RBI.
St. Clairsville 10, Union Local 1
Union Local 100 000 0 - 1 6 8
St Clairsville 330 301 x - 10 9 1
UNION LOCAL: Bethel (LP, 1K, 1BB), Minamyer (5, 4K, 2BB) and Keiser; Brahler D, RBI.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE: Machovina T, 2S, RBI; Clark HR, 4 RBI; Figura S, D, RBI; Rykowski D; Hummel S, RBI; Morrison S, RBI.