ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The St. Clairsville softball team put its lead-off hitter on base during five of its six at-bats.
Time and time again, however, Buckeye Local worked out of the jam, but the jam was too much to avoid in the sixth Thursday.
The Lady Red Devils pounded out four hits, took advantage of two costly Buckeye errors and scored four times to take a 4-3 edge.
"Good thing is that we came back, did what we had to do and got it done," said St. C. head coach Rachel Duncan.
Though the Devils took the lead in that frame, they still had to deal with the top of the Buckeye order in the seventh.
St. Clairsville pitcher Michaela Miller, who came on in relief of Lauren Figura in the sixth, got the first out without much issue. She then walked back-to-back hitters, setting the tables for hard-hitting first baseman Kierstyn Czuchran, who connected on a towering two-run home run in her prior at-bat to give the Lady Panthers a 3-0 upper hand.
Czuchran looped a single, but it wasn't deep enough to push across the tying run. Seemingly unfazed, Miller proceeded to get the next two Buckeye hitters swinging to end the rally and the game.
"I have a lot of respect for Buckeye Local and how well they hit the ball, but I thought our pitchers did a good job of controlling that, especially against the meat of their order," Duncan said. "We needed to hit the ball sooner, and a lot more. I was waiting for that one inning where we could open it up and have that rally."
St. C. had a runner reach scoring position in every inning, but each time Buckeye Local sophomore Sandra Gardner was able to escape the trouble.
"I constantly tell (the team) that the first out of the inning is so important," Buckeye Local head coach Joe Soos said. "When you get that lead-off runner on, there's a good chance she's going to come around to score."
In the sixth inning, Kaley Garloch led off with a solid single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Miller then came up just shy of a home run and raced it into a triple. Figura followed with a double to score Miller. Mackenzi Otto moved Figura up 60 feet with a single. She knotted the game on an error in the Buckeye infield.
Two hitters later, Ashley Baker drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to center.
"We came through in that inning," Duncan said. "We found it within ourselves to come through and get it done. This is a big win for us."
St. Clairsville totaled eight hits, which didn't surprise Soos.
"They have a good-hitting team," Soos said. "They're one of the better hitting teams in the valley. Not much more to say other than, they got it done and we didn't."
Buckeye also had its fair share of scoring chances. It had the bases loaded in the fourth, but struck out and popped out to Figura in the circle to end the frame.
Lauren Swiger had two hits for the Lady Panthers.
Both teams are off today for Good Friday. Buckeye Local hosts its own tournament on Saturday and St. Clairsville welcomes Steubenville at 1 p.m. for a twinbill.
St. Clairsville 4, Buckeye Local 3
Buckeye Local 100 020 0 - 3 7 2
St. Clairsville 000 004 x - 4 8 0
BUCKEYE LOCAL: Gardner (LP, 1K, 1W) and B. Zeroski. Czuchran HR, S, 2RBI; Leonard D, RBI; Swiger 2S.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE: Figura (3K, 3BB), Miller (WP, 6, 2K, 2BB) and Hummel. Otto D, S; Figura S, D, RBI; Miller, T, RBI; Baker RBI.