WHEELING - It didn't take Shadyside coach Jillian Ongley long to realize that Tuesday just wasn't going to be a good day for her club. Ace pitcher Megan Heagney walked the first two Wheeling Central hitters, including leadoff hitter Joni Zavolta on four pitches.
The Maroon Knights made Heagney and the Tigers (9-5) pay not only in that inning with four runs, but time and time again en route to a 10-0 victory in a six-inning shortened game during the OVAC Class 2S Softball Tournament semifinals at the Chambers I-470 Complex.
"I don't know that she's ever walked the leadoff batter on four pitches," Ongley said. "We kind of knew at that point that things weren't going to go our way. Give Wheeling Central credit because they took advantage of every opportunity and really made us pay."
Wheeling Central’s Sydney Bennington is congratulated by Rick Magruder after hitting a walk-off, two-run homer in the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s game.
The Knights (16-7) will return to I-470 for Saturday's 10 a.m. title game against the winner of today's 4 p.m. encounter, pitting top-seeded Steubenville Catholic against Cameron.
"This (championship) game is where we want to be," Central coach Rick Magruder said. "For us, this starts our run. We put it all in line to be playing our best ball at this time of the year. We just tell the girls to come out and play hard, have some fun and see what happens."
The Maroon Knights certainly had a lot of fun and what they saw happen was Shadyside commit seven errors, amass only four innocent singles and really never truly threaten to score against pitcher Sarah Henry.
"Sarah pitched well and we stressed that we wanted to jump on them early because they did that to us last year," Magruder said. "We wanted to keep the pressure on and we did because we hit the ball pretty hard."
The Knights made it 5-0 in the third and then tacked on three more in the fourth when first baseman Ashley Gast took a belt-high Heagney offering over the fence for a three-run home run.
"Something wasn't in line for us because we just didn't play like ourselves," Ongley said. "We played great two games against Martins Ferry on Saturday, but we just couldn't get it going (here). It wasn't for lack of effort and the girls were ready to play. It just didn't go our way."
That wasn't the last time the Knights played long ball. Two batters after Allie Cook's lead-off triple, shortstop Sydney Bennington deposited a Heagney pitch over the left-center fence for a walk-off home run.
"When we're hitting the ball, we're pretty tough," Magruder said. "The key for us is the top three hitters getting on base for our big bats in the middle. Lately, we've been doing a good job of that."
All told, the Knights pounded out 10 hits. Vanessa Saseen had a double, Henry helped her own cause with a RBI double in the first. Bennington also had a double and Gast drove in a run with a single in the first.