Clay's softball team came up one win shy of reaching the state semifinals, but that didn't put a damper on the Eagles' season.
Ninth-year coach Brenda Radabaugh's squad competed with top-ranked Elyria and their All-Ohio pitcher, Tess Sito, last week in the regional finals before losing 3-1. The game was tied 1-1 after six innings.
"The kids were very happy with the season," said Radabaugh, the City League and Northwest District coach of the year. "We started the year 9-5 and went for over a month before we lost. That's a long ways to go. We went a long stretch without any losses and we were peaking at the right time.
"The kids were positive going into the (Elyria) game. I don't like the way the seventh inning played out, with a couple of miscues, but it was an exciting game. We tied it at 1-1 and it was a lot of fun. We would rather be winning, but we lost to a good team and a good pitcher."
The loss ended a 15-game winning streak for the Eagles (24-6), who won sectional and district titles this season after claiming their third CL title in the last four years. Clay had scored 33 runs in its previous five tournament games, including a 7-1 win over Northview in last Friday's regional semifinals.
The Eagles lose four starters from this year's team in third baseman Lindsey Wise, pitcher/outfielder Erin Screptock, outfielder/designated player Monica Reeves and first baseman Matea Rice.
Wise was a three-year starter and made second-team all-league this year. She will play softball at Trine University (formerly Tri-State University) in Angola, Ind.
"She's a very aggressive third baseman," Radabaugh said. "She transferred to that spot at midseason her junior year, but as a senior she took ownership of that position and did a great job defensively."
Screptock was also a second-team all-league selection and finished 9-1 on the mound. She will play ball at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio.
"She was a very strong pitcher and had great control," Radabaugh said. "She showed her versatility by pitching and playing outfield."
Reeves was one of the Eagles' best clutch hitters. She intends to play at either Notre Dame College or Bluffton University.
"She played injured part of the season, but she came through with big hits when we needed them," Radabaugh said. "When we needed a hit to score some runs in our big games, she always seemed to come through."
Rice, a three-year starter, will play at Owens Community College next season.
"She was a strong first baseman," Radabaugh said. "She had good range and did a nice job for us."
Clay returns seven starters as well as pinch runner/outfielder Christine Carlo next season. Carlo broke her thumb in the first scrimmage of the season.
The Eagles' returning starters are junior pitcher Kasey Graham, sophomore pitcher Cassi Laberdee, junior catcher Sarah Stibaner, junior second baseman Eryn Simon, junior shortstop Hallie Thompson; freshman center fielder Kim Crawford and sophomore outfielder Danielle Holmes.
After an early-season injury, Laberdee began pitching in relief toward the end of the year.
"We're looking for good things from her," Radabaugh said. "She's a pretty good pitcher."
Simon was voted first-team All-Ohio recently and was named the CL Player of the Year after batting .418. Graham, Stibaner, Simon, Crawford and Holmes were first-team all-league selections, with Graham (14-5) earning CL Pitcher of the Year honors.
Simon, Graham, Crawford and Holmes were first-team all-district selections, while Stibaner was a second-team pick. Thompson and Rice were named honorable mention all-league.
Radabaugh said most of Clay's returning starters will play on travel teams this summer as well as participate in the team's off season weightlifting program.
"Our goal is to get one step further than we did this year," Radabaugh said. "We'd love to win the state tournament. We have strong people coming back next year so that we should be able to repeat at least what we did this year."
One thing Radabaugh said she will remember about this year's team was that it never let adverse situations get it down.
"Sometimes in baseball and softball one error can snowball, but this group was awesome at not letting that happen," Radabaugh said. "One person would make a mistake and the rest of the team was great at picking them back up. Offensively, we had a never-say-die attitude. We scored early a lot this year, but even when we didn't we were able to come from behind. They just did not let a situation get them down."