By Ryan Jones
A last-inning error by Hubbard opened the door in the Div. II sectional.
STRUTHERS — Heading into the Division II softball tournament, Struthers’ sectional pairing against Hubbard had all the necessary ingredients for a nail biter.
After 10 Ω scoreless innings Tuesday, potential became reality.
Even though Struthers defeated the Eagles 1-0 after scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning, calling the Trumbull Athletic Conference co-champions losers seemed almost cruel.
The Wildcats (19-7) will play host to Poland today with the winner advancing to district play. The teams split two regular season meetings, each winning on the other’s home field.
Struthers coach Anthony Gentile said his team had chances to take control of the game, but couldn’t come up with the big hit.
“Both teams played hard,” he said. “We needed a couple of hits earlier in the game that would have given us the lead, but we didn’t get them. We hung in there and in that last inning Hubbard made an error that kind of opened the door for us.”
Starting pitcher Ashley Baron reached base in the last of the 11th when Hubbard dropped a pop up. Sam Ditman followed with a single to center and Halle Minchin-Skook flared a single to right to load the bases.
Nic Demyan hit the game-winning single when she grounded a 1-1 offering off the glove of Hubbard pitcher Kara Egelsky.
“I told her [Demyan] in the ninth inning that she was going to have a chance to win it for us,” Gentile said. “She wasn’t able to get the runner home from third in the ninth, but when she got a second chance I knew she was going to come through.”
Baron, a sophomore right hander, had 11 strikeouts in the complete-game shutout. She allowed seven hits and walked none.
Gentile said he calls his sophomore ace the energizer bunny.
“She’s a warrior,” he said. “She never backs down and the more she pitches the better she gets.”
Baron said she attributes her success to taking a cerebral approach on the mound.
“I try to pitch to the hitter by putting myself in their shoes,” she said. “I try not to put the pressure on myself to throw the perfect pitch every time. Of course, I know that my defense is going to be there for me.”
Hubbard (16-7) had several chances to take the lead but was unable to find the clutch hit. The Eagles loaded the bases in the seventh, only to have the go-ahead runner thrown out at the plate to end the threat.
In the 10th Hubbard made the third out of the inning at third base, and stranded a runner on second in the 11th.
Hubbard coach Ken Miller said he lives to be a part of games of this magnitude.
“Of course we’d like to come out on the other side,” he said. “They [Struthers] strung together the big hits at the right time; they got the breaks. We had our chances, but our bats kept falling asleep when we needed them most. It’s always fun to play against Struthers because I’ve known their coaches for years. It’s just a shame that someone had to lose a game like this.”
Egelsky (12-3) went the distance for Hubbard in the loss. She struck out 11, walked four and surrendered eight hits. Ashley Bone had two hits to lead the offense.
Minchin-Skook had three hits for the Wildcats, including a double and a triple.