SHADYSIDE - The drive down Route 7 looked gloomy in the early afternoon on Saturday.
While most northern games were already canceled for the day, Steubenville Central and Toronto still played through the threat of rain in Shadyside.
Before the eventual cloudburst, the Crusader bats roared and Alex McComb pitched a gem in a 9-0 Division IV sectional semifinal victory over the Red Knights.
RUN DOWN — Central first baseman Megan?Lloyd catches a throw as Toronto’s Lexie Berger tries to evade a tag on the basepaths. The Crusaders beat the Red Knights 9-0 behind a string pitching performance form sophomore Alex McComb. Backing up the play is Central catcher Maddy Gulan. -- Matthew Peaslee
"We were hoping to get it in," said Central coach Jim DiCarlo. "We can't worry about what we can't control. Whatever the weather is, it is.
"We'll be ready to play whenever the time to play comes."
McComb retired the first 12 batters she faced before walking Lexie Berger to lead off the fifth inning. Chelsea Anderson then reached on an error, but McComb settled down and recorded a two-straight fly outs and a fielder's choice.
Central 9, Toronto 0
Toronto 000 000 0 0 1 0
Central 300 600 x 9 12 2
TORONTO: Meadows (LP 3K, 3BB) and King. Berger S.
CENTRAL: McComb (WP 4K, 2BB) and Gulan. M. Mirabella 2S; F. Capaldi S, RBI; Gulan 2D, 2RBI; McComb D; G. Capaldi 2D, 3RBI; Lloyd S; Metcalf S, RBI; S. Mirabella S.
"I felt like there was more pressure to win this game," McComb said. "I was ready to play and I had confidence to go out there and start strong early."
The sophomore then breezed through the sixth in order and got the first out in the seventh inning as the no-hit bid was taking shape.
Kaylie Zdinak then reached on an error before Berger legged out an infield hit on a 3-1 count.
"I knew I had it going," McComb said. "I've had a few no-hitters before, though. A win is a win."
Added DiCarlo, "It would've been nice. That little squibber get down and you don't know what could've happened if we got the out. It's still nice to get the shut out."
Central improved to 15-4 as the offense helped spot McComb with three first inning runs. It added on by batting around and scoring six runs in the fourth.
"Our offense has improved greatly from the beginning of the year," McComb said. "I'm happy that everybody has been hitting so well."
Maddy Gulan and Gabby Capaldi each had two doubles and drive in two and three runs, respectively.
They each scored twice, also.
Courtesy runner Natalie Mastroianni scored a pair of runs, too, running for McComb.
Micca Mirabella reached on two singles, while Fran Capaldi and Maddie Metcalf each singled in runs. Megan Lloyd and Shayna Mirabella each had hits.
"We hit the ball OK at times, but we got the big hits when we needed to," DiCarlo said. "We still left some opportunities out there."
McComb finished with four strikeouts. Pitching for Toronto, which ends the year at 5-16, was Desiree Meadows. The freshman struck out three and walked three and the Red Knights didn't commit an error.
"Toronto is a rival," DiCarlo said.
"I give them credit for having good spirit throughout the game. They came and battled.
"Their coaches are doing a good job, they have young players and will continue to improve."
The Crusaders are now slated to play on Tuesday at 5 p.m., back at Shadyside.
They'll face to Shadyside-Bridgeport winner; that game was rained out on Saturday.