STEUBENVILLE - Another big hit led to another big inning which ultimately led to another big victory.
Senior slugger Maddy Gulan delivered a tiebreaking two-run home run to right-center field in the bottom of the sixth inning to lead the Steubenvile Catholic Central softball team to a 4-1 victory over Oak Glen on Monday evening at the Steve Zamana Softball Field in the second game of a split doubleheader.
Gulan's blast scored Maddy Metcalf, who came in to the game to run for Fran Capaldi, who led off the inning with a base hit.
"We gave Maddy the green light with the count being 3-0," Catholic Central (8-3) coach Jim DiCarlo said. "We wanted to advance the runner. Maddy makes good contact. She is surely capable of doing what she did. It was a clutch hit. She has had many of those in her four years here."
Gulan's blast cleared the fence, but it was almost just a loud first out of the inning as Oak Glen senior right fielder Emilee Phillips nearly made a highlight-worthy catch, but the ball ended up just out of her reach and she banged into the fence before tumbling over it.
"Emilee really attacked the ball, but when the fence stops you the fence stops you," Oak Glen first-year coach Morgan Martin said.
The Golden Bears are 11-9 overall.
Megan Lloyd, who pitched no-hit ball for 5 1/3 innings, picked up the win for the Crusaders. Lloyd struck out six, did not walk batter and allowed one run on three hits.
"Megan pitched a wonderful game," DiCarlo said. "She only allowed three hits. She had a no-hitter going in the sixth inning."
Lloyd helped her own cause with a two out RBI double in the sixth.
The Crusaders outhit the Golden Bears 7-3.
Individually for the girls from Jefferson County, Gulan singled to go along with her two-run home run, Shayna Mirabella tallied two base hits and Micca Mirabella collected a base hit and an RBI.
Freshman Hannah Clunk took the loss for Oak Glen. Clunk struck out three while not issuing a free pass.
Offensively, Clunk contributed a run-scoring single to help her own cause, and Erin Fields and Logan Andrews also finished with base hits.
"We played tough defensively, but we lacked offense," Martin said. "We did not get the hits we needed to score the runs we needed. We have to pick it up. You have to score runs to win."
In its first game of the day, Catholic Central defeated city rival Big Red, 6-4, in a game played at Franciscan University. The Crusaders scored all six of their runs in the top of the third inning.
Similarly, the Crusaders scored the first run of the game against the Golden Bears in the third inning in the nightcap.
Shayna Mirabella started things off with an infield single, and the speedster moved to second on an errant throw. She moved to third on a pitch in the dirt, and she scored on a base hit by Micca Mirabella giving the Crusaders a 1-0 advantage.
The hosts maintained the lead until the sixth inning.
With one out in the top half of the inning, Fields reached on an infield single, and she advanced to second following an errant throw. After a strikeout, Clunk singled home Fields to tie the score at 1-1, and Clunk ended up at second base on the play as she moved up on the throw home. Next, catcher Mikayla Crane smacked a line drive, but the ball ended up in the glove of shortstop Micca Mirabella to end the inning.
After Gulan's home run gave the victors a 3-1 lead, Gabby Capaldi reached on an error with two outs, and she scored on Lloyd's double, which bounced off of the fence in left-center field to give the Crusaders a 4-1 lead.
"Megan had a big hit, Micca Mirabella had a big hit and Fran Capaldi had a big hit," DiCarlo said. "Their pitcher is tough. The scores I have seen from their games she has pitched have all been low scoring."
In the seventh, Andrews led off with a single, but later she was tagged out while attempting to steal second. Lloyd recorded a strikeout to end the game.
"We worked hard on defense," Martin said. "We just didn't score enough runs. We didn't bring it offensively. We are going to have to bounce back and hopefully pick it up tomorrow."
The hosts committed one error in the game, while the girls from Hancock County committed four.
"She gave a good effort," DiCarlo said about the attempt by Phillips to rob Gulan of a home run. "Oak Glen played good defense.
"I thought we played good defense. Ashlynne Daley threw that girl out at second. Megan fielded her position well. She did a good of getting to bunts and other groundballs.
"It was nice to play in warm weather. I knew today was going to be tough. We are battling to make it into the OVAC Tournament. We are going to take it one game at a time and one pitch at a time.
"I thought we hit a little better. Megan pitched a great game, and our defense kept them at bay."
DiCarlo coached against Martin while he was the head coach at Indian Creek and she was at Weir. Martin was an all-state pitcher for the Red Riders.
"She has done a good job at Oak Glen," DiCarlo said. "She was a great pitcher at Weir. I coached in the summer. She is a competitor. She has worked my coach's clinic. It is nice to coach against a former player of mine. She is going to be successful. They have turned the corner. They have a winning record. They have played a lot of close games. She is going to do a great job for years to come."
Coaching against DiCarlo was special for Martin.
"I played against him in high school, but he is also a former coach of mine," she said. "He has a great team. They did what it took to win."
Both teams are scheduled to return to the field today on the road. Oak Glen will play at Indian Creek and Catholic Central at Weirton Madonna.
Big Red defeated Weir on the road in its second game of the day.
SCC-Lloyd, wp (6K, 0BB) and Daley.
OG-Clunk, lp (3K, 0BB) and Crane.