RICHMOND - Games can change on just one pitch.
Wednesday evening, two pitches helped to turn the tide in favor of the Big Red softball team in an 8-0 victory over Buckeye Local in an Ohio Division II Eastern District Sectional Semifinal out at Jefferson Lake State Park.
"I'm feeling a lot better now," said Steubenville head coach Gus DiMarzio said. "I was a nervous wreck. I admit it. They are a good team.
"We were up by six runs, but (Kierstyn) Czuchran and (Lauren) Swiger are real-good hitters. They have good hitters on their team. With one swing of the bat, it could have been 6-4."
With the win, Big Red (21-7) will play in the sectional final at 5:30 p.m. Friday. It will play either Edison or Indian Creek in the title tilt. The Wildcats and Redskins are scheduled to play at 5:30 p.m. today in the other tournament semifinal.
"I look out there at the scoreboard, and I see zero for us," Buckeye Local head coach Joe Soos said. "A team has never won scoring zero. Big Red got some big hits. They scored some runs. That is why they came out on top. That is why they are advancing."
Big Red 8, Buckeye Local 0
Buckeye Local 000 000 0 - 0 3 3
Big Red 100 142 X - 8 6 2
BUCKEYE LOCAL (14-7): Starcher (LP, 4 2/3IP, 7K, 2BB), Gardner (1 1/3IP, 0K, 2BB) and B. Zeroski; La. Swiger S; Leonard S; B. Zeroski D.
BIG RED (21-7): Stamps (WP, 4K, 2BB) and M. Barker; Fields S; Banks S, D, 2 RBI; M. Barker HR, 2 RBI; Petrisko HR, RBI; Gentile D.
The two pitches in question came in the bottom of the fourth inning.
With two outs, Casey Gentile doubled off of the fence in left field. She was then lifted for a courtesy runner. The runner was awarded third base after the field umpire called an illegal pitch on Buckeye Local pitcher Ivy Starcher, and Big Red scored its second run of the game when Starcher was called for her second illegal pitch of the game.
"I think the game turned when it was 1-0, and the umpire called two illegal pitches," Soos said. "He handed them a run.
"I am not taking anything away from Steubenville. They deserved to win the game. She has been called for an illegal pitch a few times. The funny thing is she has only been called for it when there have been runners on base. That's the way it goes.
"I'm not blaming the umpires. It's our fault. We didn't score.
Big Red broke the game open in the fifth by scoring four more runs to build a 6-0 advantage.
"It is part of the game," DiMarzio said about the illegal pitch calls. "She battled her butt off. She is a senior. This is her last game. She is a great pitcher. She fought the whole time.
"Did those two calls changed the game? I don't know. I don't know if it changed how she pitched, but she still fought. It was tough out there for her. That's tough on a young lady."
Hayley Stamps picked up the win for Big Red. She struck out four and walked two.
"Once again, it was the freshman pitcher," DiMarzio said. "She bears down and gets outs. God bless her. She fights. It helps when her teammates play good defense behind her."
Offensively, Big Red delivered six hits, four of which went for extra-bases including two which sailed over the fence in left field for home runs.
Individually, Mytia Barker recorded a two-run home run, Rhiannon Petrisko produced a solo home run and Na Banks belted a run-scoring and a run-scoring double. Finally, Sierra Fields singled.
"We hit the ball well," DiMarzio said. "We have taking a lot of batting practice. It has started to pay off at the right time.
"They are seeing the ball. They are getting their bat on the ball. They are putting the ball in play. Good things are happening. They did that today. Hopefully, it continues."
Starcher took the loss for the Panthers, who are 14-7 and could potentially schedule some make up games. She struck out seven and walked two in 4 2/3 innings of work inside the circle. She was replaced by Sandra Gardner with two outs in the fifth inning. Gardner did not record a strikeout while walking two in her 1 1/3 innings of work.
Offensively, Becky Zeroski belted a double, while Lauren Swiger and Karlee Leonard delivered base hits.
Big Red has now won 11-straight games dating back to a victory April 21 at Weir in the second game of a split doubleheader.
"We are just playing better," DiMarzio said. "Our kids are working hard. Hopefully, we can keep on doing it."
Buckeye Local's three seniors are Leonard, Starcher and Morgan Staten.
"Karlee Leonard was our third baseman, Morgan Staten was our left fielder and Ivy Starcher was our starting pitcher," Soos said.
"Karlee and Ivy were four-year starters. Morgan has had a couple game-winning hits for us this year. This will be Morgan's second letter.