Bumbico crafts two-hitter as Martins Ferry blanks Harrison Central

T-L Photo/KIM NORTH MARTINS FERRY’S Abby Bumbico came within two outs of hurling a perfect game Friday as the Purple Riders blanked visiting Harrison Central, 9-0, on the Rider Little League Baseball Field. She retired the first 19 Huskies she faced before yielding two seventh-inning singles.

MARTINS FERRY — Abby Bumbico wasn’t perfect high atop the Purple City Friday, but she was darn close.

The Martins Ferry senior retired the first 19 Harrison Central batters she faced before settling for a 2-hitter as the Purple Riders (9-3) blanked the visiting Huskies, 9-0, in softball action on the Rider Little League Baseball Field.

“Abby pitched an excellent game. She kept them off balance the entire game,” Martins Ferry head coach Paige Williams praised. “She did a really, really good job.”

Bumbico said she wasn’t aware of her perfect outing when she toed the rubber for the seventh inning.

“I really didn’t know but when I gave up the hit and saw the girl on first, I was like ‘that’s the first hit,'” she recalled. “I pitched a no-hitter in travel ball once, but this was my best start to a game ever.”

Bumbico agreed with her coach on her mixture of pitches.

“My curveball and changeup were really effective,” she advised. “I kept them off balance by mixing them up.”

After getting Britton Positano on a comebacker to start the seventh, West Liberty recruit Madison Young broke up the perfect attempt when she dropped a 2-1 pitch down the rightfield line for a single. Joclyn Peshek singled with two outs.

Of the 21 outs recorded, four were strikeouts — two looking and a pair swinging — while seven were ground outs. She induced four popups, a like number of flyouts and two line drives, including one off the bat of Positano leading off the game.

“Our leadoff batter hits a rocket back up the middle and she (Bumbico) sticks her glove up and catches it. That was kind of the story all night,” Harrison Central head coach Darrin Young assessed. “Hats off to them. Some days you just have to tip your hat and say ‘hey, you beat us.’

“(She) kept us off balance and she worked the zone real well,” Young said of Bumbico. “She kept us thinking. It was a really nice pitching performance.”

Bumbico needed just 77 pitches, of which 52 were strikes in the 1-hour, 31-minute affair.

The contest pitted the top two teams in the OVAC Class 4A standings, with Harrison Central (10-4) entering at No. 1.

“We knew what was at stake coming in. They were ahead of us in the OVAC and they’ve been hitting the heck out of the ball,” Williams said of the Huskies, who were averaging 15 hits a game before Bumbico silenced them. “I’ve told the girls from Day 1 that we need to bring our ‘A’ game, and we haven’t seen it very much lately, but today they brought it. That’s our motto for the rest of the season and we don’t want to see anything less.”

Martins Ferry provided Bumbico with all the run support needed in the first when it put up a three-spot. Bumbico started the two-out uprising with a solid single to left-center. She alertly took second when the ball was kicked around. Maria Clark drew a four-pitch walk before Hunter Pollock sent a single to right that chased in Bumbico. Sidne Sidon, the Purple Riders second baseman who made an outstanding catch in shallow right to end the top of the inning, drilled a two-run single to left for a 3-0 advantage.

The Purple Riders added three runs in the fourth and tacked on a trio an inning later that was highlighted by Sydni Trudo’s two-run homer that hit the top of the fence in deep left and bounced over.

“We’ve been telling her since she was a freshman to face the batter and just make good contact,” Williams said of Trudo, her senior No. 9 hitter. “When she came around third base, she said ‘all I need is that good contact.'”

In addition to Bumbico’s stab to open the contest and Sidon’s defensive gem, both corner outfielders — Alea Funkhouser (left) and Aubrey Braun (right) — also turned in fine running catches.

“Our defense really stepped up today and made some outstanding plays behind Abby,” Williams added. “Sidne’s catch down the rightfield line in the first inning was a big key to the game.”

Clark finished with two singles and a double for the Purple Riders, who host Weir today for two games. Funkhouser, Sidon and Jaden Stalder all had two safeties.

Kaylee Elliott took the loss inside the circle. She was followed by Peshek and Sarah Touville. The were rocked for 13 hits.

Harrison Central travels to New Manchester today for a doubleheader with Oak Glen that starts at 2:30.