Harrison surges by Buckeye in softball

CONNORVILLE – Sometime there are wins and sometime there are character wins.

Wednesday afternoon at cloud-covered Panther Field, Harrison Central recorded one of the latter with an 8-2 victory over host Buckeye Local (4-4) in Buckeye 8 action.

The Huskies (7-2) were coming off a tough, 2-1, setback at Wheeling Park on Tuesday, but, according to head coach Donnie Bethel, it’s never easy to get a victory in Connorville.

“Any time you come down here to Buckeye Local and win, it’s a big win,” Bethel advised. “They always play us tough.”

Indeed they do as last year’s scoreless deadlock after nine innings will attest.

A two-run home run off the bat of No. 9 hitter Emily Dodds jump-started Harrison Central. With the score already 1-0, Dodds took an Ivy Starcher delivery deep to left-centerfield for her first career home run.

“That was a big hit,” Bethel allowed. “Not only for the team, but for Emily. I think it even surprised her.”

Staked to a 3-0 lead, Huskies’ fireballer Katie Ellzy cruised through the first three innings allowing only a 2-out single to center by Becky Zeroski, the Panthers’ No. 9 batter, in the third. The hit came on the 11th pitch of her at-bat.

However, Buckeye Local finally broke through in the fourth when Aliyah Marelli laced a leadoff single to left. She stole second and went to third on Karlee Leonard’s base hit. Leonard swiped second and Kierstyn Czuchran hit a comebacker that Ellzy fielded. She looked at first initially, then turned to check on Marelli who had held the bag. The throw to first was not in time as the bases were loaded.

Lauren Swiger’s single up the middle plated Marelli for a 3-1 reading, but all the momentum the Panthers had built up went by the wayside. Amy Balk’s fly ball to right-center was turned into a rally-killing double play as freshman Cheyenne Nameth lasered a strike to Dodds who tagged out the sliding Leonard. Ellzy ended the inning by snagging a soft liner.

“That double play was really big,” Bethel said. “Cheyenne is only a freshman, but she’s a good one.”

As often happens, after a team turns in a web gem, it seizes the momentum. Harrison Central did just that as it posted two runs in the top of the fifth for a 5-1 bulge.

Ellzy helped her own cause with a 2-run single to left with one out. The hit scored Kiley Staley and Kara Dunfee, who had walked and singled, respectively.

The visitors added to their advantage in the seventh as they tacked on three more tallies and chased Starcher in the process.

Dodds singled to right leading off and Paige Dunlap followed with a base knock through the left side of the infield. Staley walked to fill the bases, but consecutive bouncers to Leonard at third resulted in fielder’s choices at the plate. However, Jessica Custer came through with a 2-out, 2-run single to left-center. Nameth knocked in courtesy runner Courtney Dowdle with a base rap to left to make it 8-1.

Buckeye Local plated a run in its last at-bat when Rachel Hoagland doubled off the fence in deep center leading off as a pinch-hitter. She went to third on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error.”If she (Ellzy) isn’t the best (pitcher) in the Ohio Valley, then she’s in the top two or three,” Buckeye Local head coach Joe Soos offered.

“With her on the mound, you know what you have to do. You’ve got to score a couple of runs and not give them any.

“Right now the snowball is rolling the wrong way, but we’ll come back tomorrow and get after it again,” he added.

Ellzy fanned seven and walked just one. She scattered five hits, all singles except Hoagland’s two-bagger. She threw 108 pitches, of which 75 were strikes.

Dunlap, Dunfee, Custer, Nameth and Dodds all had two hits apiece for the Huskies, who are now 2-1 in Buckeye 8 play.

Starcher fanned half-a-dozen and issued one free pass.

The Panthers, who are now 0-3 in the Buckeye 8, are scheduled to play at John Marshall today before making the return trip to Cadiz Friday to meet Harrison Central.

HC 030 020 3 – 8 13 1

BL 000 100 1 – 2 5 3

Batteries: Ellzy and Dodds. Starcher, Trouten (7) and B. Zeroski

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com