Martins Ferry edges Newcomerstown

CADIZ — Paige Williams’ heart skipped a beat in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday afternoon.

After building a 3-0 lead in its Ohio Division III East 2 district semifinal against Newcomerstown, Martins Ferry’s head coach watched as the Trojans slowly chipped away, aiming to tie the game or more.

But the Purple Riders buckled down defensively in that inning, and the seventh, and left Sally Buffalo Park’s Cravat Coal Softball Complex with a 3-2 triumph, causing Williams to check her pulse for a second after the final out.

“I think they just like to give me a heart attack is what it is,” Williams joked after the Purple Riders earned their first district final berth in seven seasons.

“I think they don’t like to see their coaching staff comfortable, so they like to get us as high-strung as possible.

“Really, though, Newcomerstown kept us on our toes and we almost made enough mistakes to give it to them.”

The Trojans (12-8) were unable to come up with that one big play, and as a result Martins Ferry (13-12) will make the trip to Cambridge City Park today to face Garaway. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. The winner advances to regional play in Lancaster on Wednesday vs. the winner of the East 1 district finale pitting Sandy Valley and Meadowbrook.

Unlike Martins Ferry, Garaway was able to get its district semifinal in Monday — as scheduled. The Pirates’ 13-7 triumph against Tusky Valley allowed the IVC squad to have a couple of days to prepare. Meanwhile, the Purple Riders and Trojans were washed out Monday. And with more wet weather forecast for Friday, East District officials decided to play today to get the game in.

“Would we have liked the opportunity to prepare for them?,” Williams said, “sure. “But, honestly, I do kind of like the idea (of having no off day).

“I guess we’ll see.”

Williams is confident her ace — Abby Bumbico — can take to the circle again, 24 hours after striking out five and helping close the door on Newcomerstown in the drama-filled last few innings.

“She’s pretty strong,” Williams said. “I think she can go back-to-back.”

Bumbico got through the first five innings virtually unscathed — allowing four baserunners. But in the sixth, leadoff hitter Maddie Fish singled then stole second with Kariey Ingle up. Ingle grounded out, but Fish raced home after a throw to third in an attempt to tag her out went wide.

Leah Kellish doubled, then Brianna Robinson was intentionally walked. Sierra McMullen hit a shot to second that resulted in out No. 2, but the runners advanced into scoring position. Deserae Harbold reached on an infield single allowing Kellish to score, making the score 3-2. But with the tying run at third, Bumbico got Cassandra Fries to hit a grounder directly to first ending the threat.

With two outs in the seventh, Fish walked then stole second. Ingle lined out to second to end the game.

“All in all, I thought we did a pretty decent job,” Williams said.

Especially in the first three innings, where the top of Martins Ferry’s order came through with two out.

In the first, freshman Maria Clark (who was credited with five assists at short behind Bumbico) knocked in Jayden Stalder with the game’s first run with a shot to left. Then, in the third, Clark came up big again, this time singling to center, driving in pinch runner Kara Kapiskosky. Hunter Pollock’s double down the left-field line moments earlier (a hit that ricocheted off the third-base bag) plated Bumbico.

“I thought we did a decent job,” Williams said of her team’s offense. “I don’t know if we had anything really powerful, but it was enough to win.

“Hopefully, we’re saving the power for (today).”