NEW PHILADELPHIA - The Strasburg jinx continues.
For the seventh time in eighth meetings, the Tigers have ended a fine softball season by St. John.
Thursday afternoon at the Art Teynor Complex, an Irish throwing error with two outs in the top of the eighth inning gave Strasburg the only run it would need for a 1-0 triumph in a Division IV district final.
The Tuscarawas County squad has defeated the Irish nine times from 2003-08 and in 2010.
With the heartbreaking setback, St. John concluded a superb 25-4 season. All four losses came by a total of five runs.
"We could've won any one of those games, if not all of them," veteran St. John coach Jerry Magistro said. "There wasn't a game we got beat legitimately from our scrimmages until now, but that doesn't win you games.
"It just seems like something wacky happens up here every year," he continued. "The girls played their hearts out. What are you going to do?"
With juniors Kristina LaRocca (Strasburg) and Hannah Absalom (St. John Central) having their way inside the circle, neither team could muster any type of offense as baserunners were at a premium.
With one out in the top of the eighth, Melissa Cregan bunted for a single. On the very next pitch, Tia Burlingame grounded a single just past Kaydie Coppa at second as Cregan hustled to third.
Burlingame took second on the throw to third. Caitlin Gessner was then walked to load the bases.
The strategy seemed to work as Absalom got Ariel Jones to pop up her bunt attempt. Sophomore catcher Morgan DeLuca sprung from behind the plate to snag the ball for the second out, but her throw to third trying to double off Cregan was off the mark as Cregan raced home.
St. John Central had one at last chance, but Kristen Russell's drive to deep left-center was gloved by a tumbling Ashleigh Moore for the first out. LaRocca ended the game with a popup to second.
"That was probably one of the best hits of the game," Magistro allowed. "That girl made a heckuva catch in left field. She saved the game right there. That's an easy double for sure there, and then you don't know what happens after that.
"I still think that we are a good enough team to go on and play against anybody, I don't care who they are," Magistro added. "We've proved that all year long that we can play with anybody.
"I think this district is the toughest in Division IV," he noted.
"Year-in and year-out the winner of this district usually wins the region and then the state."
The loss ended the 4-year careers of Russell and Coppa.
"You couldn't ask for a better pair of seniors," Magistro offered.
"They are great kids and come from great backgrounds. They did everything I asked of them. They will be missed.
"These underclassmen didn't want this to end for the seniors. They wanted to keep playing for them."
Absalom finished with six strikeouts and the one walk, which was actually intentional, allowing four singles.
The Irish received base hits from Caitlin Sliva, Sydney Helms and Kyleigh Falcone.
LaRocca fanned seven and didn't walk a batter.