ST. CLAIRSVILLE - There was a time this season when Donnie Bethel was especially critical of his Harrison Central softball team's offense.
The challenge he issued to his club was answered as the Huskies began the postseason Tuesday afternoon on the Market Street Field.
Harrison Central pounded out 11 hits and earned a 9-2 victory against Barnesville to advance to the sectional semifinal against Union Local, which dispatched Bellaire in the nightcap.
"We swung the bats well," Bethel said. "We still had some base-running issues, Katie (Ellzy) wasn't as sharp as she usually is, so the bottom line is we can play better. But, we played well enough to win and I am hoping we can get into a little bit of a rhythm now."
The Huskies found themselves in a 1-0 hole after a half inning as Barnesville stepped in against Ellzy, a Robert Morris commit, completely unintimidated by the hard-throwing righty.
Ellzy, who struggled with her command much of the afternoon, allowed two hits and a run before she snared a liner to escape the jam.
"Our nemesis most of the season has been our ability to bring runners in with timely hitting," Barnesville coach Bryce Allen said. "Ellzy is a great pitcher and pitched another good game, but we just have to be able to convert when we get runners in scoring position."
Harrison Central wasn't trailing for long. It sent eight to the plate in the first, scoring three runs. Ellzy was plunked to force home a run and then after a strikeout, Paige Richards singled, driving in two more runs.
After Barnesville made it a 4-2 game heading to the bottom of the third, Harrison Central broke out the heavy lumber. Sophomore catcher Joelle Jones hit a towering solo home run over the left-field fence that basically blew the game open and completely swung the momentum.
"That's been a long time coming for Joelle," Bethel said. "She's got that kind of power. That was her first of the season, and we're hoping it's not her last."
Ellzy, meanwhile, allowed only one hit in the game's final four innings.
Harrison Central struck for four more in the fifth with Paige Dunlap's two-run double serving as the big hit of the frame. Jones drew a bases-loaded walk for her second RBI of the contest.
"We had a couple of (mistakes) in the field that cost us, too," Allen said. "They took advantage of those, and that's what good teams do. If you give them a chance to break (the game) open, they will."