For the second time in five years the No. 6 ranked Clay Eagles made it to the elite eight.
With a dramatic, 4-3 win over Anthony Wayne last Wednesday, Clay advanced to the Division I regional final for the first time since 2009. The Eagles have already won a Three Rivers Athletic Conference championship.
By the time this is read, the Eagles will either have advanced to the state final four or missed a trip to state by one game. In Saturday’s regional final, they faced off with either Cleveland St. Joseph (13-18) or No. 3 ranked Elyria (24-5). Elyria defeated Clay, 4-1, in the D-I regional final in '09.
Advancing to state would mean Clay is playing at Akron’s Firestone Stadium in a state semifinal this Thursday with the championship Saturday.
|Clay's Brooks Gyori scores the winning run in the bottom of the
seventh as her teammates celebrate. The Eagles defeated Anthony
The Eagles' win over the Generals did not come without drama. Down 1-0, Clay scored three runs in the third inning to take the lead before AW rallied to tie it at three apiece with two runs in the seventh. However, the Eagles won it in the bottom half when Lindsay Schiavone drove in Brooke Gyori with a base hit up the middle.
“It looked like we were in control and then we had a miscue and then we were in control and had another miscue,” said Clay veteran coach Brenda Radabaugh. “We've been successful coming back (this season). (The girls) knew someone could come through there. They've been confident (and) the bats have been there all year.”
In the top of the seventh, with one out and runners on second and third, left fielder Haley Dominique made a key play to catch a line drive and doubled the runner off second to end the threat before Schiavone won it in the bottom of the inning.
It has been a dream season for Radabaugh and her girls, and reaching the state tournament was a goal.
“This has been a really nice season,” said Radabaugh. “When you coach girls, there is going to be drama. This year, they're helping each other — they're working hard in practice, they're working hard to make each other better. They're upbeat and positive; it's a nice feeling.”
The team's batting order consists of center fielder and lead-off hitter Honnah Susor, followed by second baseman Lindsay Schiavone, pitcher/outfielder Brooke Gallaher, third baseman Hayley Schiavone, catcher Emily Novak, Dominique, designated player Jamie Miller, shortstop Harleigh Isbell and right fielder Gyori. First baseman Hanna Cowell is also seeing her share of action at the plate, hitting .314 in 51 at-bats.
The Eagles have four of the top hitters in the area in Susor, Dominique, Hayley Schiavone and Gallaher. Susor is hitting.573 with three home runs, 21 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. Dominique, a freshman, is hitting .456 and is second on the team with 24 RBIs. Schiavone is hitting .446 and is tied with Susor and Jamie Miller with three home runs, tops on the team. Gallaher, the team's ace, hits third and carries a .434 average with a team-high eight doubles and 34 RBIs.
However, in softball, often the most important part of the game is pitching, and the Eagles have two high-grade hurlers in Gallaher and Danielle Lorenzen. Gallaher, a first team TRAC selection last season, is 16-2 with a 1.16 ERA. She's pitched 115 innings and her strikeout-to-walk ratio is 129 to 37, or nearly 3.5:1. The other starter, Danielle Lorenzen, is 10-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 66 innings of work. She has 40 strikeouts and only seven walks.
At Clay, where softball and baseball are already well-established perennially strong programs, this squad is only helping to enrich the softball program's history.
“This has been a pretty special year because we haven't made it (to regionals) for a while,” Gallaher said. “It feels great because we've put in a lot of work and it's paid off. The chemistry has been really good on the team this season.
“It's awesome because we have a lot of people in the community supporting us. Early in the season, not a lot of people were coming to our games, but now that we're playing well and have made it this far, there are a lot of people coming to see us.”
Radabaugh, who teaches AP Calculus and Algebra I at Clay High, is now in her 13th season with the Eagles. During her tenure, Clay has experienced nothing but success, winning nine league titles (3 GLL; 4 TCL; 2 TRAC) in three different conferences.
Radabaugh has coached softball for 26 years, the last 21 as a head coach. Before taking over at Clay, she was the skipper at Central Catholic (1992-2000) for eight years and the junior varsity coach at Clay for five years. During that time, she's accumulated a 413-152 record, good for a .731-win percentage. During her time in Oregon, the Eagles have gone 262-94 (.736), won eight sectional titles and three district championships.