City softball on the rise
Hayley Stamps won’t get the keys to a new Camaro for a while, but she does share her time in the driver’s seat of the Big Red softball team.
“She’s can’t even drive a car yet,” said Steubenville coach Gus DiMarzio. “But she’s cool under pressure in some big game situations.”
When Harrison Central was threatening in the sixth inning of the OVAC 4A championship game, Stamps was able to escape a jam. The Huskies stranded two runners in scoring position after DiMarzio visited Stamps on the mound.
“I walk out there and she says, ‘Coach, my curveball’s not moving, my shoulder’s hurting, I can’t get them out,'” DiMarzio said. “I told her to settle down and that we have faith in her.
“After that, she said I’ll finish it.”
Stamps held off the meat of the Huskies’ order in the seventh and Big Red won its first OVAC softball title ever with the 4-2 victory.
“When you got a kid like that who is only 15 years old and plays the game that way it says a lot about her character and drive,” DiMarzio said. “That’s the drive of our whole school and program.”
Just a few hours earlier, the city’s other high school – Catholic Central – made some history, too.
Though it’s become commonplace for the Crusaders to dominate the diamond.
With an 8-0 win over Bellaire, Central captured its second-straight OVAC 3A crown after appearing in the championship game for the third year in a row.
“They’re all nice,” said Central coach Jim DiCarlo. “We’re very humbled to be in this position. It’s our sixth OVAC title in program history and the girls have worked so hard for this goal to become a reality in recent years.”
Maddy Gulan and Micca Mirabella are the lone two seniors on the team. They both will be playing softball collegiately.
“We’ve grown up with Coach D in our lives for a long time,” Mirabella said. “It’s just like stepping into the big world now. Even though there is still work to be done.”
The Crusaders still are wrapping up the regular season but have their eye on another trip to the regional tournament. Last year, they fell in the semifinals to eventual state champion Bloom-Carroll, which touts pitcher Taran Alvelo who committed to the University of Washington during her freshman season.
Central went 25-5 in 2013 and has rolled to a 14-4 record already in 2014.
Megan Lloyd and Maddy Metcalf – a junior and sophomore, respectively, sparked the Central rally which turned the OVAC title tilt into a rout.
Sophomore pitcher Alex McComb allowed just two Bellaire hits, while striking out seven and not allowing a walk.
“I’m so proud of them,” Gulan said. “They really have stepped up. There’s a lot of young players proving their worth.”
Just like Stamps is doing for Big Red. She’s not the only freshman that has made a major contribution to the record-setting season, either.
Rhiannon Petrisko and Na Banks start in the Steubenville infield and have made major contributions at the plate. Kylee Taylor and Carlee Jenkins see time as pinch runners. Jenkins even made a pitching appearance.
“I’m excited for the future,” said Big Red senior catcher Mytia Barker. “My freshman and sohphomore year, we weren’t nearly as good as this.
“This season actually makes me think that softball is going to be a more respected sport at Big Red.”
Stamps has racked up 47 strikeouts this season, splitting starting pitching duties with Hannah Westlake. Twice she’s reached a high of six strikeouts (in a 4-3 win over Oak Glen and 5-4 loss to St. John Central).
“All the seniors have helped me gain confidence this season,” Stamps said. “I’ve learned a lot from them. I’ll really miss them when the season is over.”
Steubenville recently notched its 20th win of the season and has potential to double its win total from last season (12) very soon.
“You have to tip your hat to these kids,” DiMarzio said. “They’ve made a lot happen and they’re still hungry for more.”
Mirabella and the Crusaders are ready to eat, too.
“We want to end our senior season with a bang,” she said. “This year has been one of my favorites ever playing softball. Everybody has come together and the underclassmen really have become family members with us.
“We’re proud of what we accomplished (with the OVAC title) and we’re more excited to keep playing and to see what else we can do.”
(Peaslee, a Youngstown native, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @thempeas)