WHEELING - Knowing how hard Cameron had to battle just to make the OVAC Tournament, Steubenville Catholic coach Jim DiCarlo wasn't surprised the Dragons took his team to the wire Thursday at Lisa's Field. Battling some initial nerves, the Crusaders rallied with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Class 2A semifinal for a 3-2 victory.
The Crusaders return at 10:30 on Saturday morning to face Wheeling Central in the title game.
"I think the OVACs always brings the best out of teams,'' DiCarlo said. "You've got to give Cameron credit.
Steubenville’s Micca Mirabella slides into second while Cameron shortstop Lexi Aston attempts to tag.
"That's a program that is used to winning at this level."
After the Dragons (14-6) had struck for two runs in the top of the sixth, the bottom half began with Taylor Clark, playing with a torn ACL, reaching on a single and being replaced by Fran Capaldi.
One out later, Ashlynne Daley ripped the first pitch she saw from Linda Hall into deep left-center, scoring Capaldi with the tying run. Hall struck out the next batter, but Megan Lloyd slammed an 0-2 pitch between shortstop and third to score what turned out to be the winning run.
That rally was made possible by Steubenville Catholic (15-3) second baseman Kelsey Grandinetti. Cameron had already scored twice and was threatening to tally another, but Grandinetti made a diving catch on a Janis Williams liner and fired to third from her knees to complete a double play and end the sixth.
"That was really key. I went out and talked to them and told them 'if we hold them we are going to win,' '' DiCarlo recalled. "We've been down many times and our kids have not panicked.
"They have confidence that we can hit the ball and come back. That's what we did. We hit the ball hard in that sixth inning.''
It was a tough-to-swallow defeat for Coach Mark Witzberger's young Dragons. They hadn't had much success against Crusaders freshman hurler Alex McComb, who fanned 10 - all in the first five innings.
However, Hall, who struck out eight and did not issue a walk, kept Cameron in it until the bats came alive. Natalie Trowbridge led off the sixth with the game's lone walk but was erased on Hall's fielder's choice grounder. Audrey Bryan followed with her second single of the game and Marissa Meintel brought them both home by ripping a 2-2 pitch into deep right for a double.
"This is probably the best game we've played this year with a lot of very inexperienced players,'' Witzberger said. "I couldn't be prouder of them.
"I think at the beginning of the year if you would have asked anyone, with what we lost (to graduation) and the players we've had to move into positions they've never played before, to get to this point and play this well speaks very highly of the girls and the effort they put in every day.''
McComb helped her own cause with an RBI single in the fourth.