OVAC softball tournament opens today

The annual Ohio Valley Athletic Conference softball tournament gets under way today on Ben’s Field and Lisa’s Field at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling.

Four of last season’s champions are back to defend their titles. They include St. John Central (1A), Wheeling Central (2A), Buckeye Local (4A) and John Marshall (5A). Only Magnolia (3A) failed to make this year’s field.

All championship contests will be played Saturday on Lisa’s Field.

The immediate area is assured of at least one champion as all four entrants in the 4A field reside in the local coverage area. They are Martins Ferry, Harrison Central, St. Clairsville and Buckeye Local.

The Purple Riders finished as the top seed and will meet No. 4 Buckeye Local in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on Lisa’s Field. The two Buckeye 8 rivals will be meeting for the third time this season, with each winning on the others home field.

Buckeye Local blanked Edison (3-0) and outscored Meadowbrook (8-6) in winning its title. Martins Ferry was eliminated in 3A semifinal action by Fort Frye, 2-0.

Harrison Central was ousted, 3-2, by Meadowbrook in last year’s 4A semifinals.

In the opener Wednesday, another pair of Buckeye 8 rivals – No. 2 Harrison Central faces No. 3 St. Clairsville – meet in the other semi, which begins at approximately 5:45 p.m. The Huskies and Red Devils have already split their regular-season series, with each prevailing on its home diamond.

Of the quartet, Martins Ferry leads with three titles (2000, 2005 and 2011), all coming in 3A. Buckeye Local (1999 and 2012) and St. Clairsville (1992 and 1995) each have two. The Panthers titles came in 4A, while the Red Devils were in 2A and 3A, respectively. Harrison Central (2009) has one, also in 3A.

The two winners will collide Saturday at 2 p.m. for the championship.

Today’s schedule has the Class 3A semifinals slated for Ben’s Field at 5 p.m. and 6:45, respectively.

In the first game, undefeated and top-seed Fort Frye will meet No. 4 River, while No. 2 Bellaire and No.3 Shenandoah square off in the second contest.

Both semifinals will be rematches of early-season doubleheaders won by the Cadets and Big Reds.

The Pilots and Zeps have never won softball titles, while the Big Reds (1994, 1996-96, 1999 and 2003) have five and the Cadets (2010) one, that coming in 2A.

The 3A championship game starts at 12:15 p.m. Saturday.

Also today, one Class 2A semifinal will be contest. Second-seeded Wheeling Central will entertain No. 3 Shadyside at 4 p.m. on Lisa’s Field.

The other 2A semi is set for Wednesday at 4 p.m. when No. 1 seed Steubenville Central and No. 4 Cameron square off on Lisa’s Field.

The Maroon Knights are a perennial power, be it in Class 2A or 3A, which they used to play in. They have claimed a dozen titles, including six in the last seven years.

The Tigers (1992-94) have won three titles, but were knocked off by Wheeling Central, 9-4, in last year’s semifinals.

The 2A championship gets the ball rolling Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Also on Wednesday, top-seeded and once-beaten St. John Central will be seeking its ninth title when the Irish meet No. 4 Paden City at 5 p.m. on Ben’s Field. That winner will meet the survivor of the 6:45 semi between No. 2 Bishop Donahue and No. 3 Madonna, also on Ben’s Field.

SJC, which has already swept the Bishops this season, recorded back-to-back 6-0 victories over Conotton Valley and Bishop Donahue, respectively, to win its title last spring.

The Irish have ruled the smallest division, winning championships in 1999, 2001-02, 04-07 and 2012. However, the Bishops own the most titles – 13 (1980-82, 84-87, 89-90 and 1995-98).

The Class A title tilt will wrap up Saturday’s festivities at 5:30.

Other action today has the largest classification – Class 5A hitting the diamond at Lisa’s Field. Top-seeded John Marshall meets No. 4 Morgantown at 5:45 p.m., with No. 2 Wheeling Park and fourth-seeded Indian Creek tangling at 7:30.

The 5A title game is set for 3:45 Saturday afternoon.

All semifinal games are subject to Mother Nature’s schedule.

Saturday’s schedule could be re-done depending upon who wins semifinal games and if any schools have prom that day.

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com