WHEELING - The torrential rain of the past week provided an inconvenient schedule disruptor to teams in the OVAC softball tournament.
It didn't necessarily bother Steubenville Catholic Central.
"I thought our kids were really focused this week," said Crusaders head coach Jim DiCarlo. "We had wonderful practices, especially on offense."
That translated over to Central's Class 3A semifinal game against Magnolia as it collected nine hits in a 6-1 victory.
"It's exactly what I was hoping for," DiCarlo said. "I thought the preparation for this game really seemed to be able to help us."
Though pushed back from Tuesday to Thursday, the Crusaders (11-4) didn't lose momentum or falter in a must-win atmosphere.
They've been used to it for most of the season.
"Every game for us was almost a playoff game," DiCarlo said. "When were were 4-3, we had really tough games with Harrison Central, Magnolia, Oak Glen and Steubenville."
Central won all four as part of a six-game winning streak through the second and third week of April, helping it qualify for the OVAC tournament in the first place.
"There was playoff-like pressure just to get in," DiCarlo said. "That pressure helped us. We've had to play good competition and that's helpful."
The Crusaders scored two runs in each of the first three innings, building a 6-0 lead which would be enough for the win.
"Central put pressure on our defense," said Magnolia head coach Dillon Mangino. "They used slap bunts, slap hits, all kinds of stuff to keep us off guard."
Micca Mirabella, Ashlynne Daley and Maddy Metcalf all collected two hits each, with an RBI. Maddy Gulan singled, doubled and drove in a run, while Gabby Capaldi reached on a single.
"We hit the ball pretty hard and put some pressure on them on the basepaths," DiCarlo said.
Mallory Chapman took the loss for the Blue Eagles, despite striking out 10 and walking only two.
"Mallory is a workhorse," Mangino said. "I don't think she got out of her comfort zone at all. I just think that, honestly, Central put together good at bats against her."
Alex McComb took the mound for the Crusaders, striking out four and walking none. She allowed six hits, including a fourth inning solo home run to Davianne Crasman for Magnolia's only run.
"Alex pitched well and we played good defense behind her," said DiCarlo, as Central committed just two errors.
The Crusaders now advance to their third-straight OVAC title game. Last year, they topped Wheeling Central, 8-7.
McComb earned the win with five strikeouts and Micca Mirabella belted a two-run home run. Three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted Central for the championship.
"We had a good week to prepare and we feel good when we have that long to prepare," DiCarlo said. "We wanted to be aggressive (against Magnolia) and we'll continue to be aggressive."
Central 6, Magnolia 1
Central 222 000 0 6 9 2
Magnolia 000 100 0 1 6 1
CENTRAL: McComb (WP 4K, 0W) and Daley. M. Mirabella 2S, RBI; Gulan S, D, RBI; Daley 2S, RBI; G. Capaldi S; Metcalf 2S, RBI.
MAGNOLIA: Chapman (LP 10K, 2W) and Gibb. Chapman S, D; Dvig S, 2D; Crasman HR, RBI.