At one point this season, all nine of Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh’s starting lineup was among the leading hitters in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
That is not by accident.
The No. 5 ranked Eagles (26-3) were to take on Whitmer in a Division I district final Friday, and a win sends them to the a regional semifinal matchup this Wednesday. They will play the winner of No. 3 Grafton Midview and No. 4 Elyria at North Ridgeville High School, first pitch scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
A regional semifinal win sends them to the regional final at noon Saturday at Clyde High School. The Eagles already went through the TRAC schedule unblemished, winning a league title, and defeated TRAC rival Findlay, 11-1, in last week’s five-inning mercy-ruled district semifinal.
|Clay's Honnah Susor leads the confrence with a .591
batting average, and is one of eight Eagles batting
over .400. (Press photo by Scott Grau)
Clay hitting coach Mollie Berry says the Eagles have one goal remaining.
“Our goal from day one has to be state champs, and I think that is great goal for us and it’s very reachable, and I hope that we can pull it all together and keep playing well in the tournament,” Berry said.
The Clay version of “Murderer’s Row” includes two players hitting above .500, six more above .400, and additional two hitters at .300 or higher, and even the No. 11 and No. 12 hitters are hitting .298 and .284.
Honnah Susor leads the TRAC, batting .591 with a .679 on base percentage and a 1.057 slugging percentage. Radabaugh is confident she will win the league batting title. Susor has eight doubles, eight triples, six home runs, 43 RBIs, and 35 stolen bases.
“Part of it is she’s fast, and there’s a saying, ‘Speed never slumps,’” Radabaugh said. “In the past, I would say Honnah did a lot of dragging and slapping just to get on base. This year, she’s relied on that very few times — maybe two or three of her hits are drag or slap.
“Now, she’s just swinging away and she’s making such good contact that she’s hitting the ball really well. Speed is an issue there, too, where some kids may get thrown out on a ball, Honnah can beat it out. If she puts a ball anywhere that is not right at anybody, she’s going to be safe.”
The others are Bekah Yenrick (.545), Baleigh Bocook (.494), Haley Dominique (.480), Connor Phillips (.417), Jamie Miller (.414), Brooke Gyori (.410), Hayley Schiavone (.405), Emily Sibbersen (.333), Courtney Quinlan (.308), Brooke Gallaher (.298), Harleigh Isbell (.284), and Danielle Lorenzen (.278).
Six of nine starters have hit home runs, and eight of nine have done so during their prep careers, but Radabaugh says they don’t teach the players to swing for the fences. They teach them to make solid contact.
To get this team hitting like it does, last year Radabaugh brought in Berry, who played prep softball at Clay and then four years NCAA Division I softball at Wright State.
“I have to give her credit for the improvement in our hitting,” Radabaugh said. “She does a lot of our drills with the kids that are the same things she did in college, working on hitting technique. We’re doing a lot to get the kids to not shoot their arms and extend, but to use their legs, also, because there is a lot of power that comes from the legs.”
Berry explained, “I was lucky enough to play for three different coaches within my four years (at Wright State), and I think from every one of them I was able to take something and carry it on. Softball has given me so much in my life, and it’s so nice when you can give back to the future of the game, which are the young athletes. I mean, honestly I love (coaching), and hands down, it’s my favorite.”
Softball coaches vary in preferred hitting techniques, and rotational and linear styles are two of the more popular styles. Some coaches even insist that batters separate their hands, but for Radabaugh and Berry, it’s a combination of all of them.
“There is some rotational, but a lot of it is using their legs, focusing on where they are hitting the ball, trying to go with the pitch instead of trying to pull everything into left field,” Radabaugh said.
Berry adds, “I would say it’s a linear movement to a rotational movement at the end, and then some core techniques within it. I wouldn’t say it one style or another, it’s a combination of both. Everybody has their own strengths, and one through nine our whole lineup can do anything and that’s very comforting as a coach.
“We have some core techniques that we are really pushing. Having quality at bats is one of the main things, and just hitting line drives. We’re trying to not to perplex them with the numbers, because that can really play mind-games with you, but we’re producing and executing every time. Winning every inning is really our main theme.”
Radabaugh says many of her girls spend the offseason playing high-level travel ball, and if they arrive with bad habits, but they are hitting, they don’t change a thing.
Maybe, Coach Berry will do some tweaking.
“She’ll set up specific drills personalized to each kid,” Radabaugh said. “If this kid has a weakness of a certain thing, she’ll have a drill for them to work on.
“A lot of it is kind of the philosophy, ‘If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it,’” Radabaugh continued. “If they were already hitting the ball well, we didn’t really change anything. The kids who weren’t hitting well, she worked on trying to improve their weakness. But some kids came in already hitting well and we didn’t have to do much.”
There is another commitment made this year by the players which the coaches says adds another boost.
“The other thing that has helped us, is that in past years we’ve worked out in the weight room in pre-season, but then once the season started we stopped because we are so busy. This year, we talked to the players and they committed to coming into school two days a week, so Tuesday and Thursday morning they are in the weight room at 6:30 lifting,” Radabaugh said.
“They get a little bit tired, but our league games are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and if we had a non-league game on a Tuesday or Thursday, they’re still in their lifting. They’ve been doing that throughout the whole season and that has helped keep the strength.”
It also helps when you’re batting against quality pitching during practice, Radabaugh said. Four-year varsity senior Brooke Gallaher has a 2.10 ERA with 98 strikeouts, 35 walks, and has given up 59 hits in 85.2 innings. Three-year varsity senior Danielle Lorenzen has a 2.01 ERA with 61 strikeouts, 5 walks, and 63 hits in 76 innings.
“Both of them do a nice job,” Radabaugh said. “They are different types of pitchers so they complement each other very well. Their strengths are different, so when we go from one to another, that is a huge benefit for us. Plus, when our hitters get to hit off of some really good pitchers at practice, that improves our hitting.”