By JOHN BUTERA
COLUMBIANA -- Using a fine pitching effort from Stephanie Grimaldi, the Cardinal Mooney High softball team defeated Crestview 3-0 Wednesday to earn a Division III sectional championship.
Grimaldi tosses a one-hitter and retired the final 15 batters in a row, as the Cardinals advanced to the district tournament at the Green Beaver complex next Wednesday.
Grimaldi struck out four and walked just one.
"She had missed a few days with the flu," said Mooney coach Mark Rinehart of Grimaldi. "But today she stood tall when she needed to. Before the game I saw what I wanted to see in her eyes."
After scoring one run in the second inning, Mooney (17-8) parlayed three hits into two more runs and a 3-0 lead after three.
Mara Palombaro had the big hit, an RBI single, while a walk to Stephanie Zizzo forced in the final Mooney score.
Crestview (15-10) had runners at second and third with one out in the second, but Grimaldi got out of the jam with a strikeout and ground out.
From here, the Rebels had only one runner the rest of the way.
"I think we could have gone a lot farther," said Crestview's Jen Harroff. "It just happened to be one of those nights when our bats weren't on. We've hit on better pitchers."
Grimaldi's performance took some attention away from Crestview ace Jessica Sferra, who turned in a solid effort as well.
Sferra, who threw her third no-hitter of the season on Tuesday, yielded five hits, all singles.
"I can't say [Tuesday] had any effect on today," noted Sferra. "It was a different game."
"If this team is hitting," said Crestview coach Clarence Sickelsmith, "We can play with anybody. Tonight wasn't our night."
"We didn't hit the ball the way we could today," said Rinehart. "But we won with 'small ball' -- bunts, et cetera."