BELLAIRE - The last remaining unbeaten Ohio Valley Athletic Conference softball team is no more.
Lauren Figura took down St. John Central with her arm and bat Thursday afternoon at sun-filled Amanda's Field as St. Clairsville handed the Irish (11-1) their first loss, 8-1.
The Red Devils' senior slugged a pair of no-doubt, two-run home runs and scattered seven hits. She didn't strike out a batter and walked two. However, she was the beneficiary of some outstanding defensive plays by the left side of her infield and a fine running catch in centerfield.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Lauren Figura, middle, is congratulated by teammate Carlee Gillespie after hitting her second two-run homer Thursday against St. John Central on Amanda’s Field in Bellaire. The Red Devils handed the Irish their first loss of the season, 8-1. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"We needed to come back and get a win today," St. Clairsville head coach Rachel Duncan said after her Red Devils lost Wednesday at Martins Ferry. "We knew St. John was a good team, and it was important that we brought our offense, especially early on."
The visitors, who kept their OVAC Class 4A playoff hopes alive with the victory, tallied six runs in the first two innings off of Irish ace Hannah Absalom.
Michaela Miller drew a two-out walk and stole second before Figura launched the first of her roundtrippers to deep right-center on a 2-2 pitch.
Antonia Hummel's bases-loaded double to right-center with two outs and two strikes in the second bumped the count to 4-0. A dropped fly ball in left added two more runs for a 6-0 reading.
"That's always our goal is to have a strong first inning," Duncan allowed. "We did that. We were strong all the way through."
St. Clairsville finished with nine hits, the first five coming with two strikes on the batter.
"We talk about being aggressive and I definitely think we were that today, especially with two strikes," Duncan offered. "Defensively, we made too many errors for our kind of softball."
St. John Central avoided being shutout with some aggressive baserunning of its own in the fourth. Absalom looped a one-out single to left and went to third when the ball was overthrown returning it to the infield. When the relay throw was bobbled, she raced home with the lone Irish tally.
The inning could've been bigger had it not been for a runner being picked off prior to Absalom's base hit as the next two hitters reached base. It was the second runner in two innings to be picked off.
"That's probably the thing I'm the most upset with," veteran St. John Central head coach Jerry Magistro said. "I've been coaching here a long time and I can't ever remember us running the bases that bad. I don't know what we were thinking at times."
The Irish also threatened in the sixth when they loaded the bases with two outs. However, St. Clairsville centerfielder Ashley Baker made a running catch of Kate Lovinski's sinking liner in left-center to end the inning.
"I'm proud of the fact that we hit the ball today," Magistro stressed. "We hit it hard, but they made the plays when they had too. The third baseman made a ton of plays. The shortstop made a ton of plays, and the centerfielder made that running catch."
Figura concluded the scoring when she sent a 2-0 pitch well over the fence in left-center with one out in the seventh.
"Lauren had an excellent day today all the way around," Duncan praised. "She did a great job. She definitely came through for us."
Hummel added a single to her key double, while sophomore Kaley Garloch singled three times for the Red Devils.
Caitlin Sliva had two singles for St. John Central. Absalom fanned 10 and walked three while giving up nine hits.
St. Clairsville travels to Sally Buffalo Park in Cadiz today to meet Harrison Central in a key OVAC Class 4A contest. The two are battling for the fourth spot. The cut-off date is Saturday. meanwhile, the Irish will look to bounce back Saturday with a doubleheader against Fort Frye on Lisa's Field at the J.B. Chambers Complex in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling.
St. Clairsville 240 000 2 - 8 9 4
St. John Central 000 100 0 - 1 7 2
STC-Figura wp (0K, 2W) and Hummel; Hummel S, D, 2rbi; Figura 2HR, 4rbi; Garloch 3S
SJC-Absalom lp (10K, 3W) and Harris; Sliva 2S