SHADYSIDE - Shadyside and River will meet for the third time this season after both advanced in Division IV sectional softball tournament action Tuesday afternoon at the Mead Township Park Complex.
The second-seeded Tigers blanked Beallsville, 8-0, behind Megan Heagney, while the defending champion Pilots squeaked past Barnesville, 4-3.
Shadyside and River will square off Thursday at 5 p.m. for the right to advance to district tournament action in New Philadelphia next week.
BEALLSVILLE CATCHER Shania Phillips tags out Shadyside’s Alicia Gulley during Tuesday’s Division IV?sectional softball tournament at the Mead Township Park Complex. The Tigers won, 8-0.
RIVER SHORTSTOP Haylee Bowers, left, applies the tag to Barnesville’s Sydney Ralston as she tried to steal second base during Tuesday’s Division IV?sectional softball tournament game in Shadyside.
In the opener, Heagney, the Tigers' strong-armed sophomore, was nearly unhittable. She struck out a career-high 19 and only allowed Lakyn Tubaugh's bloop single to left with two outs in the sixth inning.
"I was a little upset when I didn't get the no-hitter, but my team backs me up all the time. What can I get mad at them for?" Heagney said. "I didn't realize I had that many strikeouts, but my riseball and my screwball were really working."
Only two balls were put in play by the Blue Devils (10-15). Those being a grounder to third by Shania Phillips in the third inning and a fly ball to center, also off Phillips' bat in the seventh.
Although Heagney walked four batters, her head coach, Jillian Ongley, praised her effort as she recorded the first dozen outs on Ks. Of her 19 whiffs, 13 were swinging.
"We kind of fell asleep there," Ongley admitted of the no-hitter spoiler. "That ball should've been caught. Megan did a really good job today."
The Tigers (16-7) took the early lead when Lindsey Dunn doubled home Alicia Gulley in the bottom of the first. Heagney promptly doubled to the fence in center to score Dunn for a 2-0 lead.
Saminda Francis chased home the third run with a sacrifice in the second, and Shelby Benedetta's double plated the fourth run.
Heagney led off the fifth with a solo home run to deep left-center. It was her fifth of the season and bumped the margin to 5-0.
"I like hitting home runs because I don't have to run fast around the bases," Heagney added.
Dunn's groundout scored a run in the fourth, and another crossed the plate on a wild pitch as it became 7-0. Benedetta picked up another RBI in the sixth with a single.
RIVER (18-8) eliminated Barnesville when a wild pitch rolled out of play with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and a runner on third.
Deadlocked at three, Mackenzie Marshall lined a 2-out triple down the leftfield line. After heavy-hitting Haylee Bowers was intentionally walked for the second straight time, the count went to 1-0 on Rosie Romick before Paige Gibbons uncorked a pitch in the dirt that bounced around and eventually rolled out of play into the Shamrocks' dugout, allowing Marshall to trot home and set off a wild celebration.
"We got the tough draw of the tournament," River head coach David Wright said. "That (Barnesville) is one tough team. They played well. My hat's off to them."
While he praised the effort of his opponent, Wright was equally as proud of his own squad.
"We were fortunate to get that triple by Mackenzie and then the ball bounced our way," he added. "I'm happy for the girls because they didn't quit ... didn't give up."
Bowers' RBI single plated Gabby Goudy with the first run of the game.
Barnesville (14-12) evened things in the fourth when Lane Hanlon doubled to the fence in left-center and raced around on Becky Burkhart's single.
River came right back in the bottom of the inning as Rachel Hutchison's double knocked in Bowers, and Madi Taylor's infield single drove in Hutchison.
Three errors by the Pilots in the top of the fifth allowed Barnesville to even things once again. Gibbons had an RBI double in the frame.
The Shamrocks had a golden opportunity to take the lead in their final at-bat when Hanlon and Burkhart drew back-to-back 2-out walks from Goudy, who relieved Monica Curtis to start the inning. Goudy then plunked Hunter Weiss with a pitch to load the bases.
Curtis re-entered and got a rally-ending fielder's choice grounder.
"We just couldn't get that big hit when we needed it there," Barnesville head coach Matt Johnson said. "You hate to see a game like this end like it did. We would've liked to make them earn it. It's a shame because these girls have battled.
"I give Paige a lot of credit. She's really a shortstop or second baseman, but she's given that up to pitch for us this year," Johnson added. "That says a lot. She never complained."
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org