Toronto’s bats go cold in defeat

GOOD FORM — Toronto’s Shanna Reed slides safely into home plate against Bridgeport in an OVAC Class 2A semifinal on Monday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

WHEELING — Brooklynn Ruble likes pitching in the OVAC Tom Bechtel Class 2A softball tournament.

The fireballing senior struck out 16, including the final seven batters she faced Monday night, as second-seeded Bridgeport defeated third-seeded Toronto, 6-3, in a semifinal contest under the lights on Lisa’s Field. The game was a rematch of last year’s championship tilt where the Bulldogs (11-5) also prevailed.

“I can’t say enough about her,” Bridgeport head coach Donnie Cash said of his ace in the circle. “She’s pitched just about every game for us the last two years. In my opinion, if she’s not the best, she’s one of the top three (pitchers) in the Ohio Valley. In this tournament, she’s just been lights-out for two years in a row. We need another performance either Friday or Saturday when we play Clay-Battelle for the championship.”

Ruble, who twirled a pair of no-hitters last week, allowed just one hit — a clean single up the middle by opposing pitcher Jamie Anderson with two outs in the third. Toronto’s three runs came via a pair of groundouts and a Bridgeport error.

“I’m actually proud of my team. We hit the ball and we played together,” Ruble said while downplaying her own performance. “I’m really proud of them. We’re excited to be going for back-to-back titles, but it is nerve-wracking, as well.”

The date and time for the championship game will be announced later today, as Clay-Battelle has prom Saturday night.

“She definitely rises to the occasion. The bigger the game the better she pitches,” Toronto head coach Steve Trifonoff said of Ruble. “She proved that last year. It’s not that we didn’t expect it. She pitches well in big games and did so again tonight.”

Trailing 1-0 entering the home half of the first, Bridgeport struck for three runs on just one hit. Toronto committed three of its five errors.

Jaren Tucker drew a leadoff walk and went to second when Angie Sommer’s grounder was misplayed. A passed ball moved each runner up 60 feet, and Tucker broke for home when the next pitch got away from the Red Knight catcher. She slid across home plate safely to tie the game, but the throw back to the pitcher covering also got away, as Sommer alertly sprinted home for a 2-1 lead. Bri Conaway then struck out swinging, but the ball was dropped. She ended up at third and raced home when Ruble bounced a single up the middle. The Bulldogs grabbed a 3-1 advantage.

“The first game we played them we were very aggressive on the bases, and we lost 9-7,” Cash said. “The second game we didn’t hit for nothing, and we lost. I figured today what the heck, let’s roll the dice and see what happens.

“I like the way we’ve been playing the last week or so. I wanted us to get in a good rhythm. We were up-and-down there for a while, but I feel we’re in a great rhythm right now, and we need to continue that.”

With Ruble doing her thing in the middle of the diamond, the Bulldogs added to their margin. They tallied three times in the bottom of the third for a 6-1 lead. Two of the runs came across on an error, while Halee Aubrey and Kayleigh Roberts pulled off a double steal, and Aubrey scored.

“You could tell what team wanted to win this game. That’s for sure, right from the beginning,” Trifonoff said. “That’s what happens when one team comes to play and the other doesn’t. Whether you’re favored or not, this is what is going to happen.”

He dismissed the fact that it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season. The Red Knights defeated the Bulldogs in both prior meetings this year.

“We played bad, and they played good. That’s all it was,” he said. “The first two games they played bad, and we played good.”

Bridgeport will be facing a Clay-Battelle team with revenge on its mind for a semifinal setback in extra innings last season.

“They hit the ball pretty well against Shadyside today,” Cash said of his scouting on Clay-Battelle. “It will be a revenge game on their part, but that was last year and this is this year. I just told my three seniors that I’m very proud of them. They are our leaders.”

Bridgeport 6, Toronto 3

Toronto 1-0-0 1-1-0 0 — 3-1-5

Bridgeport 3-0-3 0-0-0 x — 6-5-1

TORONTO: J. Anderson lp (8K, 3BB) and Reed; Sapp 2rbi.

BRIDGEPORT: Ruble wp (16K, 5BB) and Tucker; Ruble 2S, rbi; Stockwell rbi.

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