CAMBRIDGE - Martins Ferry coach Paige Williams handed Cirstie DelGuzzo the game ball following a hard fought 3-1 victory against Claymont in an Ohio Division III district finals at Cambridge stating, "she is playing like a senior who does not want her season to end.''
The Purple Riders' senior hurler began the game under less than ideal conditions as the plate umpire nullified her very first offering with an illegal pitch call. Purple Riders fans and coaches became a bit worried when the call was repeated a second time.
DelGuzzo moved clear across the rubber and modified her pitching form to comply with the umpire's implication that she was moving outside the allowed lane during her follow through but the first batter got a free pass in the process.
"You have to give her credit for not getting frazzled," Williams said
The third illegal pitch call came during the second Claymont at-bat and that ended in a sacrifice bunt which moved the baserunner into scoring position. Delguzzo ended up with a double windmill adjusting her motion and the umpire called a third illegal pitch which moved the runner on base to third with one out.
The next two batters sent their offerings deep into the outfield but the defense made the plays recording two long outs to end the inning.
DelGuzzo came to the plate as the lead off batter for the Purple Riders and notched a single. Addie Suriano bunted her to second where the speedster wasted no time working a delayed steal to swipe third. Morgan Stalder's fielder's choice allowed DelGuzzo to race home for her first score of the contest.
"We have been able to use our speed and some small ball to score some runs," Williams said. "Especially Cirstie, as a third base coach when I see Cirstie on third base I just feel more comfortable."
The second inning on the mound DelGuzzo relocated on the rubber and got a bit of a confidence boost striking out the first batter on a 3-2 count. That quickly went away as the plate umpire signaled the fifth illegal pitch. DelGuzzo fielded a bunt and threw out the second batter but the No. 7 hitter, Demi Wisnieski, notched a triple down the right-field line.
The next batter lined out to third ending the inning.
"A triple that does not hurt you is not bad, I will take that in any game," a relieved Williams said.
Delguzzo found a new groove and with some great glove work from an error -free defense that was the only threat until the seventh inning as just three more Mustangs would find their way aboard.
The Purple Riders added a second run in the fourth inning as Kylie Stalder and Beth Hotlosz both reached on errors. Stephanie Perdok made the Mustangs pay as a ground ball to short stop went to first base plating Kylie Stalder on the fielder's choice RBI.
Delguzzo found her way on base in the fifth literally taking one on the chin as she was hit by a pitch in the facemask while offering for a bunt. Suriano moved her to second and scored when Kady Webb blasted a fly ball into the wind which bounced off the centerfield fence for an RBI double.
The Mustangs put a bit of a scare into Williams and her Purple Riders as Wisnieski blasted her second extra-base knock to the fence in right center to score Claymont's lone run with two out in the top of the seventh.
Rather appropriately DelGuzzo struck out the final batter on three pitches to clinch the victory and keep her season alive. The senior issueed just the lead off walk, notch five strikeouts and give up four hits in seven innings of work.
"It was not for lack of effort," Claymont coach Brittany Mast said of her team's loss. "We got some hits but could not string them together."
Claymont closes its season at 12-12 mark.
The Riders (15-12) are slated to make their regional appearance next Thursday in Ashland against the winner of the Clyde District final between Milan Edison and New London.