The only thing missing from the fifth-ranked Clay softball team’s 2014 resume is a regional championship or even state championship.
They finished 28-3 overall, a perfect 14-0 in the TRAC, won sectional and district titles, but lost in the regional semifinal 8-6 in eight innings to No. 4 Elyria (23-7), which went on to qualify for the state final four after shutting out No. 1 Brecksville-Broadview Heights, 4-0, in the regional final.
The problem is that Clay coaches and players feel as if they were slighted in the regional semifinal at Clyde High School.
Helping contribute to the loss to Elyria was the fact that senior pitcher Brooke Gallaher was called for an illegal pitch five times by the third base umpire, twice with runners on third base. They were both allowed to score, like they would if a balk were called in baseball.
Many softball fans and coaches, including Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh, who watched the game or saw video do not feel Gallaher was violating any rule.
“I still feel sick when I think about that game. It will take a while to get over it,” Radabaugh emailed The Press.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association would not provide The Press with contact information for the official who made the call. Jerry Fick, the OHSAA’s Director of Officials Development for softball, says he contacted the official who made the calls and forwarded this explanation —
“The nature of the violation was the same in each case - leaping. NFHS Rule 2-33 defines a leap as ‘when both feet are airborne by the pitcher prior to delivering the pitch. A leap is an illegal pitch.’”
But not everyone saw it that way, including some Elyria fans.
Elyria Chronicle-Telegram sportswriter Bob Daniels emailed The Press, “I did talk to some Elyria fans who were at the game and they were still scratching their heads over the illegal pitch calls. Couldn't figure them out because they didn't know what the Clay pitcher did wrong. Tough way to lose a regional game.
“If she's been pitching like that all season and no one called it, she can't very well learn in one afternoon under the pressure of a regional tournament game. Shame. I hate to see the officials decide the outcome of a game no matter what the sport is and who the teams are,” Daniels continued.
Umpires are chosen for tournament action in part based on coaches’ ratings. The umpire making the call lives in Northeast Ohio, and Radabaugh notes that since the official works that district, it is mostly those schools that have the opportunity to see her during the regular season and offer a rating.
Local youth travel softball coach Michael Foster told The Press that when a pitcher’s foot leaves the rubber, it often has to be airborne because of the half-inch space that the foot falls going from the rubber to the dirt.
Foster said when a pitcher does “crow-hop,” which is coaches’ slang for “leaping,” it is not advantageous and he believes the rule needs to be modified or eliminated. Foster has played a role in developing many pitchers, including his daughters Christine and Whitney, who starred at Eastwood, and knows the Gallaher family.