Clay's softball team has hit its stride in the last few weeks, and that's been bad news for the Eagles' opponents.
On Monday, ninth-year coach Brenda Radabaugh's team beat Central Catholic 8-3 for the City League title. On Thursday, the Eagles went for their 14th straight victory when they faced Sandusky in a Division I district championship game.
"This is the time every coach wants their team to peak," Radabaugh said. "We're hitting well right now and doing a nice job on defense. We haven't been flawless on defense, but we have been making the big play and not letting errors get us down mentally.
I've seen that happen with teams. We've been really good with that this year."
The Eagles, who went 10-0 during the City League regular season to earn the top seed in the league tournament, claimed their third CL title in four years with the win over Central Catholic.
Clay (22-5) lost to Whitmer in last year's league semifinals but got revenge last Sunday in a 6-1 semifinal win over the Panthers.
Confidence has been a big factor in Clay's recent surge.
"Overall, everybody is very confident right now," Radabaugh said. "They are confident in each other. We're confident in the batter's box and I know everybody has confidence in our pitchers, and the defense has been solid. I would like to see no errors, but we've been able to minimize the damage with errors, so I can live with that."
Facing several of the state's top softball programs, the Eagles started this season with a 9-5 record.
Clay lost to Amherst Steele, which is unbeaten and ranked in the top three in the state, by a 5-3 margin on the first weekend of the season.
The Eagles also suffered a 2-1 loss to Defiance, which was unbeaten two weeks ago, and lost a 7-6 decision to Gahanna Lincoln, which has been ranked in the top 10 all year. Clay also lost to Northern Lakes League powers Springfield and Anthony Wayne by identical 5-2 scores.
"We're playing a tough non-league schedule on purpose to prepare us for the end of the year, when we need to be ready," Radabaugh said. "Some City League teams are good but some City League teams are not so good, and that doesn't help us. We've learned from our mistakes. I want to face good teams and good pitchers throughought the year so we're ready come tournament time."
The Eagles have reached 20 wins in seven of the last nine years, and they last won a district title in 2002. Radabaugh's teams won sectional titles in 2002, '03, '04, '05, '08 and '09.
Clay's road to this year's district tournament started with a 6-2 win over Findlay and then an 8-3 rout of Anthony Wayne in the sectional final.
In Tuesday's district semifinals, junior pitcher Kasey Graham (12-4, 1.40 ERA) pitched a five-hitter to lead the Eagles to an 8-0 victory over Springfield. Graham, who has six shutouts this year, was on the junior varsity team last season.
"She's very accurate," Radabaugh said. "She and our catcher, Sarah Stibaner, do a nice job mixing up pitches. We discuss pitches between innings and what we know about players and their tendencies. Kasey will tell you her biggest pitch is a change-up and she's doing a better job of using that this season."
Clay is batting .323 as a team, with a staff ERA of 1.12.
Second baseman Eryn Simon has been on a tear of late and is batting .429 with four home runs and a team-high 34 RBI. She has six doubles and two triples.
Left-handed hitting freshman Kim Crawford, who is one of the Eagles' fastest players, is hitting .470 with 25 RBI, eight doubles and one triple. She is 14-for-15 in stolen bases.
Leadoff hitter Danielle Holmes is hitting .400 with 18 RBI, five doubles and one triple. Stibaner, the No. 4 hitter, has a .354 batting average with seven doubles and 30 RBI.
The Eagles will advance to regionals with a win over Sandusky on Thursday. Clay beat the Blue Streaks 5-1 earlier this season behind senior pitcher Erin Screptock's complete-game performance.