CONNORVILLE - It's no secret that Martins Ferry and Buckeye Local have developed quite a rivalry on the softball diamond over the past several seasons.
And things were no different here Monday as the debuting Purple Riders scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to pull out a thrill-packed, 8-7, decision on a chill-filled, but sunny afternoon.
"Any win is big as your season opener, but to come against Buckeye Local on its home field, it's super big," Martins Ferry head coach Paige Williams allowed. "That's a good hitting team we just played. I look for them to be a powerhouse in the OVAC and Buckeye 8."
MARTINS FERRY freshman Tyrah King is greeted at home plate by her teammates after she belted a home run during Monday’s game at Buckeye Local. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Trailing 7-6 with one out in its last at-bat, Martins Ferry started its comeback when senior Kylie Stalder singled to center. After Stalder swiped second, classmate Cassie Hanson walked. A tapper by Tyrah King in front of the plate moved both runners up as Buckeye Local catcher Becky Zeroski alertly fielded the ball and applied the tag to King for the second out.
Brooklyn Monroe, a junior who had been 0-for-2 in the game, lined the first pitch that she saw from the Panthers' Ivy Starcher up the middle as Stalder easily jogged home while Williams waved the hustling Hanson around third. The throw to the plate was not in time as Hanson slid in safely, which touched off a wild Purple celebration.
"It's all about confidence for Brooklyn," Williams said. "We found out last year that she wasn't taking any breaths in the batter's box, so we've got plenty of oxygen to her brain now when she's in there. She came through today."
The hosts didn't go quietly in the bottom of the seventh as Zeroski lined a 2-out single to center. However, Martins Ferry freshman hurler Shaye DeLeonardis found the right time for her first varsity strikeout when she caught Starcher looking to end the game.
"Shaye certainly didn't pitch like a freshman," Williams noted. "She faced a really good hitting team and didn't back down from them at all. I'm proud of the way she pitched today."
Buckeye Local (1-2) jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the second when Amy Balk doubled off the very top of the fence in deep left-centerfield, scoring Kierstyn Czuchran and Lauren Swiger.
Martins Ferry came right back with a 6-spot in the top of the third that was culminated by a 2-run homer to rightfield by King, the Purple Riders' promising frosh. She also singled in the game.
"She's got quite a bat, doesn't she?" Williams added with a smile.
Kady Webb started the uprising with a bloop infield single that fell between two Panthers and Krissy Hotlosz was hit by a pitch. Addie Suriano hung tough at the plate as she battled through 10 pitches. On the 11th, she sent a slow roller to third that was thrown wildly to first, allowing both runners to score as Suriano chugged around to third. Morgan Stalder reached on an infield single as Suriano had to hold at third, but Kylie Stalder's single to center chased in both teammates after her younger sister had stolen second. After the first out was recorded, King launched a rocket well over the 200-foot sign in right for a 6-2 lead.
The Panthers whittled away when Karlie Leonard reached on an infield single and went to second on a wild pitch to start the bottom of the third. Czuchran's fly to right-center moved Leonard to third from where she scored on Swiger's single. Swiger would round the bases when Balk once again found the fence in left-center for a run-scoring two-bagger, making it 6-4.
A 3-run fourth gave Buckeye Local the lead. Ivy led off with a single and Ashley Trouten was inserted as the courtesy runner. Aliyah Marelli walked and Trouten was erased on a fielder's choice. Leonard walked to load the bases and Czuchran followed with a 2-run single to center that scored Marelli and Taryn Tonkovich. A wild throw allowed Leonard to come home with the go-ahead run at 7-6.
"All the credit goes to them," Buckeye Local head coach Joe Soos said of Ferry. "They reached down and found a way to get it done. That was sort of our motto last year, but they did the job tonight when they needed to."
Balk added a single to her two doubles. Swiger and Zeroski both singled twice.
"We'll need Amy to hit the ball like that all season because we lost a lot of our hitting from last season," Soos continued. "Both of those doubles would've been home runs on a warm day."
Martins Ferry hosts Monroe Central today. Buckeye Local is idle until Wednesday when it returns the trip to Martins Ferry for a 4:30 p.m. start.
Martins Ferry 006 000 2 - 8 8 3
Buckeye Local 022 300 0 - 7 11 3
Batteries: DeLeonardis and Hotlosz. Starcher and B. Zeroski
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