ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Getting a lot of offense going against Harrison Central ace Katie Ellzy is a tall enough task.
Doing it without your clean-up hitter for basically the entire game makes it that much more challenging.
That was what the host Red Devils had to do after third baseman and top hitter Lauren Figura left the game with a hamstring injury.
HARRISON CENTRAL’S Paige Dunlap gets back to first base on an attempted pick-off play. Fielding for St. Clairsville is Mackenzi Otto. The Huskies prevailed, 2-0, to advance to the Division III district tournament.
With the way Ellzy was dealing, however, it's tough to say it would have mattered.
For the third straight outing in the sectional, Ellzy was simply brilliant in the circle and fueled Harrison Central to the Division III district championship game with a 2-0 victory against St. C. Friday afternoon on the Market Street Field.
"There were three big factors in the game," Harrison Central head coach Donnie Bethel said. "Getting an early lead was one, the unfortunate injury (St. Clairsville sustained) to lose the heart-and-soul of their team and we found a way to scratch across an insurance run."
The Huskies scored in the top of the first inning after Paige Dunlap roped a one-out double to the left-field gap. After the second out of the inning was recorded, Ellzy drew a walk and Kara Dunfee reached on an error.
Roni Caldwell then drove in Dunlap when she drew a base on balls.
"Give credit to St. Clairsville's pitcher (Michaela Miller) because when we got some runners on and looked to have a chance to get some runs, she beared down and threw some really nice pitches," Bethel said. "We were fortunate today."
St. Clairsville appeared to be ready to tie the game in its half of the first. After Ellzy recorded the first two outs without an issue, she allowed a single to Michaela Miller and Figura reached on an error.
Figura came up lame running between second and third as St. C. sliced a ball down the left-field line that dropped foul. After a brief delay for the injury, Ellzy thwarted the rally with a strikeout.
"It was really unfortunate that that (injury) had to happen, both for (Figura) and our team," St. C. head coach Rachael Duncan. "She's an excellent player, it's her senior year and she plays such a big part for us, so it's really unfortunate. However, I am proud of my team because, even with the adversity, we fought through and battled."
JoLynn Shunk - the St. C. sophomore who missed much of the season with a knee injury - returned to the lineup and laced an Ellzy pitch into right field for a single to lead off the second. She was promptly sacrificed up 60 feet.
"We just couldn't string hits together," Duncan said. "Ellzy pitched a great game. We just couldn't get our hitting going."
Again, however, the Robert Morris commit came through. She got a strikeout and a fly out to center, stranding Shunk at second.
As it turned out, St. Clairsville had only one other baserunner the remainder of the contest and that came on a two-out walk in the third inning.
"I wanted this game really bad because every time we've gotten to the sectional championship game, we've kind of choked, so this feels good," Ellzy said.
Harrison Central tacked on the aforementioned insurance run in the sixth when Shianne Nameth lifted a sacrifice fly to center, driving in Ashley Heavilin, who had singled to begin the frame.
Coming off an 18-strikeout performance against Union Local on Wednesday, Ellzy fanned just seven Red Devils. She finished the gem with a strikeout, a comebacker and then snared a hard-hit liner to end the game.
"I am really not worried about the strikeouts," Ellzy said. "It's a group effort, and I am proud of the defense my teammates played behind me."
The Huskies managed just four hits of their own. They fanned 15 times against Miller. However, she issued seven walks and plunked a batter.
"Coach Duncan has done wonders with the St. Clairsville program," Bethel said. "If you take the best player out of our lineup, we're a very, very average team, so what St. C. had to deal with is tough."
Next up for the Huskies is a Thursday afternoon date, in Cambridge City Park, with the winner of today's game between Sandy Valley and Garaway.
"It's one game, and we'll be ready," Bethel said. "We're going to bring our best, and I guarantee you we'll be hungry, ready and represent the school proudly."
Harrison Central 100 001 0 - 2 4 1
St. Clairsville 000 000 0 - 0 2 2
HC - Ellzy wp (7K, 1W) and Jones. Dunlap D, Caldwell, rbi; Nameth, rbi.
St. C. - Miller lp (15K, 7W) and Hummel.