STEUBENVILLE - The Steubenville Catholic Central softball team did it again.
And so did junior Maddy Gulan.
The Lady Crusaders welcomed Division II Philo to Steve Zamana Field for a regional tournament tune up, and came from behind twice to send the Lady Electrics home with a 7-6 defeat on a Gulan walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. The win was Central's 10th one-run win of the season and the dinger was the 20th of Gulan's career.
"Maddy has really been hitting well," said Central head coach Jim DiCarlo. "She had a single, triple, and home run in the sectional final game, and she didn't make an out today. She's seeing the ball really well right now. She's batting with a lot of confidence. That is her 20th home run which is a career record at Steubenville Central, and she still has another year plus a game or two for this year.
"She's a really strong kid, she's seeing the ball real well, and she's capable of hitting the ball over the fence at any time. We're not shooting for home runs, but if it happens it happens, and this was a wonderful walk-off home run."
The victory moves the Crusaders, who have won sectional and district crowns to go with OVAC regular season and tournament titles this year, to 25-4 as they prepare to face Bloom-Carroll in the regional semifinals Wednesday at Lancaster High School.
Steubenville Central 7, Philo 6
Philo 031 000 02 - 6 7 0
Central 110 000 23 - 7 14 4
PHILO (22-7): Lyon (LP, 5K, 5BB) and Meadows. Smith 2S, D, 3R; Lyon S, 2R; Tom 2S, 2RBI, R; Mershon RBI; Hill S.
CENTRAL (25-4): McComb (WP, 5K, 2BB) and Gulan. Mirabella 3S, RBI, 2R; Giannamore S, 2R; Gulan 2D, HR, 5RBI, R; McComb 2S, RBI; Grandinetti D; Daley 3S, R; Capaldi S; Knight R.
"You have to give kudos to our kids," said DiCarlo. "These seniors (Sammi Giannamore, Tori Knight, and Taylor Clark) have won 82 games in four years, they've won 25 games this year, they have 4 regular season OVAC championships, they have one tournament OVAC title, they've made districts three years in a row, this will be our second straight in the regionals, and they've won three city championships. It's been a different kid every game. It's been an amazing year.
"We've had adversity, and injuries. Micca Mirabella got her tonsils out before the season so she struggled a little early because of it, and she's also been to the physical therapist for an arm problem. Megan Lloyd has played through a slight separation in her shoulder all year long, even even pitched with that, and of course Taylor Clark's ACL.
"I'm just so happy to play in the regionals because you never want to say goodbye to your seniors. That's the most important thing to me, and I'm glad for them that we won the OVAC this year after knocking on the door the last three."
The Crusaders ripped 14 hits off Philo pitcher Laken Lyon, led by Gulan's two doubles, home run, and five RBIs. She also walked twice to reach base in all five plate appearances. In addition to her game-winning shot she added a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh that tied the game at 4-4, moving it to the extra inning.
Micca Mirabella and Ashlynne Daley each added a trio of base hits. Mirabella collected an RBI and scored two runs with Daley scoring a run and reaching base in all four at-bats, adding a walk to her three hits. Giannamore had a single and two runs scored, Alex McComb had two singles and an RBI, Kelsey Grandinetti had a double, and Fran Capaldi singled. Knight led the eighth off with a walk to get the game-winning rally started, later scoring on Gulan's round tripper.
"The pitcher, I've been told, is very similar to what we're going to face (against Bloom-Carroll)," said DiCarlo. "I wanted to get a game. I didn't want to have a layoff and this is another regional team that is in Division II.
"It's nice to beat another quality team going into the regional."
McComb struck out five and walked two to pick up the win. The freshman is now 21-2 in the circle for the season with a 1.50 ERA.
The Crusaders now focus on 25-3 Bloom-Carroll and pitcher Taran Alvelo, who is 23-3 on the year and struck out 15 in the Bulldogs 1-0 district title win over West Jefferson. DiCarlo believes his coaching staff has the team ready for the challenge.
"Craig Creamer and Billy Lamantia do so many little things that people don't know about," said DiCarlo. "They do a tremendous job with our outfielders. They always hit their cutoffs, and they've made some really nice plays. Billy and Craig do so many things fundamentally, and also in scouting, that help us win games.
"Tommy Winland and Bill Davis are tremendous bench coaches. They've throw tons of B.P. to our kids, and that's why we hit the ball so well. Bill's been with me a long time. he's just a tremendous positive role model for our kids. Tommy is in the process of learning the game of softball, but he works hard, and does a positive job of keeping our kids up on the bench.
"There are defintely teams that have more athleticism than out kids, but I don't think anybody has more heart than our kids.They just battle to the end and believe. They believe in what we're doing, and we believe in our kids."