WHEELING - Beating Steubenville Catholic's softball team normally comes down to nothing more than scoring some runs and keeping the Crusaders off the base paths.
Thursday night in an OVAC Class 3A semifinal, Magnolia could do neither, and because of that Coach Jim DiCarlo's squad will be looking to repeat as champions Saturday.
Winning pitcher Alex McComb scattered seven hits and Steubenville Catholic continually took extra bases and turned them into runs, posting a 6-1 victory against the Blue Eagles on Lisa's Field at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Sports Complex.
Making matters even worse for first-year coach Dillon Mangino's unit, was Magnolia's inability to get the third out in the initial three innings. That is when the Crusaders scored all of their runs, five coming with two down.
"This is very nice for us," a smiling DiCarlo said. "We had to go on a streak and beat some pretty good teams to even get into the tournament, but I also think maybe that pressure has helped us.
"It is three straight trips to the finals for us now, and we were fortunate enough to win it all last year."
The first inning could not have been more opposite for the two teams as the Blue Eagles put together three consecutive two-out singles but did not score a run while the Crusaders had just one hit but put up a pair of runs.
After Fran Capaldi was hit by a pitch with one out, Maddy Gulan drilled a double to left to put runners at second and third. Capaldi then scored the first run on Ashlynne Daley's fielder's choice squeeze.
Following a fielder's choice by McComb, Catholic Central scored another run on an error that should have ended the inning to make it 2-0.
Losing pitcher Mallory Chapman recorded three of her 11 strikeouts in the bottom of the second, but the Crusaders added two more runs to make it a 4-0 margin.
Maddy Metcalf got a leadoff hit and stole second before scoring on Gulan's two-run single. Daley followed with a run-scoring single down the right-field line.
The Crusaders (11-4) scored two runs again in the third, and all three came with two down in the inning on run-scoring singles from Metcalf and Micca Mirabella for a 6-0 count.
Magnolia (11-10) finally got on the board in the top of the fourth when sophomore Davianne Croasmun launched a shot over the left-field fence to trim the deficit to 6-1.
"I want to congratulate Magnolia, they are a very good team with a great pitcher, who is also one of the best players in the conference," DiCarlo added. "We have been really, really focused in practice this week, and this is exactly what we had been hoping for coming in here. Early on, we were very focused and disciplined at the plate."
While Mangino and his crew knew what to expect from the Crusaders, it is not always an easy thing to stop.
"They put so much pressure on your defense with the slap bunts, slap hits and stealing," Mangino admitted. "But at the end of the day we have got to execute and make plays and we didn't do that."