WHEELING - Paden City's run production in the seventh and eighth inning of Thursday's OVAC Class 1A softball semifinal against Madonna has been a microcosm of its season as a whole.
"It's team work," said Wildcats head coach Janie Fox after her team topped the Blue Dons, 5-4. "It's everybody doing their part and stepping up. That's what makes the difference and it definitely did in this game."
Megan Pierce plated Hannah Stanley for the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth. Then, Paden City pitcher Taylor Casper sent Madonna down in order in the bottom half to win it.
Weirton Madonna’s Amanda Pulice prepares to throw a pitch Thursday.
It improved the Wildcats' record to 10-12, while advancing them to their first OVAC title game in program history.
"We're starting to see the light at the end of the tuner," Fox said. "The girls have grown a lot over the past two seasons and I think everything is starting to come together."
Last year, Paden City fell to Bellaire St. John in an OVAC semifinal.
In the seventh inning, Madaline Cox drove in Tori Anderson to break a 3-3 tie that had been deadlocked since the third inning.
Madonna's first two batters of the bottom of the seventh, Becca Holt and Amanda Paul, each reached base and safely moved over on Emily Pietranton's sacrifice bunt. Courtney Kaczmarek struck out before Montana Mascio's two-out single scored Holt and forced extra innings.
"We did what we needed to do in that situation," said Blue Dons' head coach Chris Conti. "Other than that, we couldn't hit. You don't hit - you don't win."
Madonna (12-8) tallied just six hits, though Paden City committed seven errors. Holt, Paul, Pietranton, Kaczmarek, Mascio and Taylor Thompson all reached base on singles.
The Blue Dons left eight runners on base.
"We had a lot of situations," Conti said, "we just didn't come through."
Amber Neff started on the mound for the Wildcats. She struck out two batters, while walking three. Taylor Casper took over midway through the fourth inning and struck out three, while walking one.
"Changing pitchers helped change the bat speed of the opponent," Fox said. "They had to start at ground zero and get their timing down again."
Conti thought his team adjusted to Casper just fine, though it didn't necessarily show in the hit column.
"It didn't phase us any," he said. "We just couldn't put the ball in play. We couldn't get any solid hits."
Amanda Pulice took the loss for Madonna. Going the distance, she struck out two, walked a pair and allowed 10 hits.
"Amanda pitched a good game," Conti said. "She kept it close for us. We just had to score runs when she pitches like that."
Madonna led by one after the second inning before the Wildcats scored three in the top half of the third. The Blue Dons tied it with two runs in the bottom half of the third.
Pietranton, Kaczmarek and Mascio drove in the runs for the Blue Dons, while Cox and Pierce were credited with RBIs for Paden City. Pierce finished with two hits, while Taylor Casper collected three singles. Cox added a double.
Madonna's next game will also be at the I-470 Youth Sports Complex, though it won't be in Saturday's OVAC title game. The Blue Dons face Bishop Donahue in a sectional contest on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
"The season isn't over by any means," Conti said. "We'll regroup and turn our attention to the sectional."
Paden City 5, Madonna 4
Paden City 003 000 11 - 5 10 7
Madonna 012 000 10 - 4 6 3
PADEN CITY: Neff (2K, 3W), Casper (4, WP 3K, 1W) and Baker. Casper 3S; Anderson S; Still S; Cox D, RBI; Shreves S; Baker S; Pierce 2S, RBI.
MADONNA: Pulice (LP 2K, 3W) and Magnone. Holt S; Paul S; Pietranton S, RBI; Kaczmarek S, RBI; Mascio S, RBI; Thompson S.