RAYLAND - With its coveted Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 4A girls' softball championship trophy proudly on display in the high school foyer, Buckeye Local can set its sights on the Division II sectional tournament, which begins next week at Jefferson Lake State Park.
However, the Panthers (18-6) needed to get past a pesky Shadyside squad Tuesday night in a regular-season matchup.
Behind the dominant four-hit pitching of Ivy Starcher, Buckeye Local posted a 4-0 whitewashing of the visiting Lady Tigers (15-6).
"Ivy pitched well," said Panthers first-year head coach Joe Soos. "She's kind of gotten herself in a little groove. She shut out Bellaire in her last start and then came on and shut down Meadowbrook in the OVAC.
"She did a real nice job."
Starcher, the Panthers' No. 2 hurler behind senior ace Angela Primovic, faced only two batters over the minimum. She struck out five and walked one.
She needed just 80 pitches, 55 of which were strikes, and threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 23 Tigers who stepped to the plate.
Shadyside did mount an early threat as Karli Bonar looped a single down the right field line leading off the game.
After stealing second with one out, Bonar tried to advance to third on Tierney Duncan's shallow popup behind first base.
However, Panther freshman first baseman Kierstyn Czuchran made a nice over-the-shoulder catch, pivoted and fired a strike to Lauren Swiger at third who tagged out the sliding Bonar to end the inning.
While Starcher wiggled out of trouble, her teammates quickly staked her to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning.
Aliyah Marelli legged out a leadoff bunt single and promptly swiped second base.
With one out, Dana Bettineschi reached on an error, and also stole second. Marelli would sprint home on Karlee Leonard's groundout.
The score would stay that way until the home half of the sixth when the Panthers exploded for three runs, making it 4-0 and giving Starcher some breathing room, not that she needed it, though.
Sydney Omaits drew a one-out walk and Marelli reached when her fly ball was dropped for an error.
With the count 2-1 on second baseman Taryn Tonkovich, the sophomore rifled a line drive to the fence in left that chased home both runners. Tonkovich would score on a Bettineschi groundout.
"This was a good win for us," Soos noted. "Shadyside has a good team and a good pitcher. It was good for us to face a pitcher like that before tournament time."
Buckeye Local 4, Shadyside 0
Shadyside 000 000 0 - 0 4 3
Buckeye Local 100 003 x - 4 4 0
SHADYSIDE: Heagney (LP, 4SO, 2BB) and McKeever.
BUCKEYE LOCAL: Starcher (WP, 5SO, 1BB) and Nest; Swiger 2S; Tonkovich T, 2rbi; Bettineschi rbi; Leonard rbi