RAYLAND - Don't look now, but the Buckeye Local softball team is putting together a stretch run that, hopefully, will allow it to accomplish some end-of-the-season goals.
For the second time in three days, the Panthers (6-3) captured a pair of games on their sun-splashed home diamond Monday afternoon, with both coming in Buckeye 8 play. They rolled past Union Local, 10-3, in the opener, while defeating Bellaire, 7-3, in the second contest.
"I think it's just a matter of getting outside and playing," Buckeye Local head coach Joe Soos said of his team's play the last week. "We're starting to hit the ball really well, and if Ivy (Starcher) can stay healthy, out pitching is in good shape."
It was Starcher who shined against the Big Reds (9-3). The right-handed senior overcome some early adversity - a trio of illegal-pitch calls - to strike out a career-high 15 batters, while walking just one. She scattered five hits.
"Sometimes you might not want to make her mad," Soos said of Starcher. "When she gets that look on her face, you just know she's going to get the job done. To fight through that adversity and stay focused, you have to give her a ton of credit."
Starcher, who stands just 46 Ks short of Jodi Jackfert's career mark of 291, struck out eight of the 10 Big Reds who stepped to the plate. She also fanned the side in the first, second and third frames.
After Bellaire took a 1-0 lead on a one-out Dallas Messenger infield single. She stole second, advanced to third on the first illegal-pitch call. Mary Garloch's single to right with two outs got Messenger in.
Buckeye Local took the lead for good with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second. Kierstyn Czuchran led off with a single to center and Lauren Swiger followed with a base rap to left. However, the ball skipped past the the left fielder and rolled to the fence as Czuchran scored and Swiger took third. Morgan Staten's suicide-squeeze bunt knocked in Swiger for a 2-1 edge.
A three-run third, highlighted by Czuchran's two-run, two-out double to deep right-center, made it 5-1. The smash plated the Zeroski sisters - Becky and Rachel - who had both singled. Swiger's single up the middle chased home Czuchran.
Bellaire got two of those tallies back in the fourth thanks to a pair of illegal-pitch calls.
"She could've easily gotten flustered there, but she didn't," Soos said of Starcher, who struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning.
Rachel Zeroski and Swiger had run-scoring base hits in the fifth to cap the scoring.
Of Bellaire's five hits, Garloch recorded three with two singles and a triple.
"We played very well today, with the exception of hitting the ball," Bellaire head coach Melissa Lahna said. "You have to hit the ball. We've kind of struggled of late, but we've got to get it corrected.
"I'm not at all upset with the way we played today," she added. "I thought we played well enough. We just didn't hit the ball."
Czuchran and Swiger combined for six safeties and four RBIs. The Zeroskis evenly divided four one-base raps. The four scored six of the seven runs.
"I told the girls that at this time of the year, every game is a playoff game to get into the (OVAC) playoffs," Soos stressed. "We haven't played that many games due to the weather early on, so we've got to win all of them that we play."
The Panthers will travel to Moundsville today for a re-match of Saturday's BL Invitational championship game won by the hosts. Bellaire hosts Union Local
Sandra Gardner fanned eight and walked two in tossing a six-hitter in the opening win over the Jets.
Rachel Zeroski collected three singles and an RBI. Karlee Leonard slugged a two-run homer. Becky Zeroski singled and doubled. Czuchran had a run-scoring single and Swiger doubled home one.
Cori Medley singled thrice and drove in a run for the Jets. Amanda Swallie had two singles and a ribbie.
Buckeye Local 10, Union Local 3
Union Local 000 120 0 - 3 6 2
Buckeye Local 002 404 x - 10 9 2
UNION LOCAL: Schafer (LP, 3K, 2W), Delaney (4, 0K, 0W), Lohr (6, 0K, 1W) and Medley; Medley 3S, RBI; Swallie 2S, RBI
BUCKEYE LOCAL: Gardner (WP, 8K, 2W) and B. Zeroski; B. Zeroski S, T; R. Zeroski 3S, RBI; Leonard HR, 2RBI; Czychran S, RBI; La. Swiger D, RBI
Buckeye Local 7, Bellaire 3
Bellaire 100 200 0 - 3 5 2
Buckeye Local 023 020 x - 7 11 0
BELLAIRE: McAninch (LP, 0K, 0W), Clark (5, 0K, 0W) and Messenger; Garloch 2S, T, RBI.
BUCKEYE LOCAL: Starcher (WP, 15K, 1W) and B. Zeroski; B. Zeroski 2S; R. Zeroski 2S, RBI; Czuchran 2S, D 2RBI; La. Swiger 3S, 2RBI