There is nothing like having your cake and eating it, too.
That’s exactly what the Clay softball team did Tuesday — one day after winning the City League championship with a 4-0 victory over St. Ursula Academy at the University of Toledo.
The team gathered in the Clay school library for cake to celebrate the championship and the signing of two athletes who are headed to Owens Community College to play softball next year.
Owens seven-year coach Duane Lanham said he wanted to wait until the Eagles ended their season to celebrate his team’s signing of Clay seniors Hallie Thompson and Kasey Graham. Clay finished with a 24-5 record.
In the CL final, Clay scored two runs in the first inning and one each in the third and fourth to defeat the Arrows for the second time in a week. Senior pitcher Kelsey Graham allowed three hits and struck out 11 to preserve the shutout. Kim Crawford went 3-for-3 with a double and scored two runs.
“It was nice to end on a positive note. We could focus our energies and go out with a win, and not a lot of seniors get to do that,” tenth-year Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said.
The Eagles had defeated St. Ursula 9-1 in a district semifinal a week earlier. Clay then lost to Springfield 5-4 in a marathon extra inning district
|Sophomore Kim Crawford slides into third base
during Clay’s 4-0 championship win over St.
Ursula at the University of Toledo. (Press photo
by Scott Grau/www.NWOPrepSports.com)
|Kasey Graham (14), Brooke Thompson, Hallie
Thompson (smiling), Eryn Simon, and Cassi
Laberdee (8) celebrate during Clay’s 4-0
championship win over St. Ursula at the
University of Toledo. (Press photo by Scott Grau/
|Sarah Stibaner (face hidden)
hugging Cassi Laberdee during
Clay’s 4-0 championship win
over St. Ursula at the University
of Toledo. Teammates Brooke
Thompson and Lyndsay Mondragon
are standing to the right. (Press
photo by Scott Grau/
championship event that took two days to finish.
“Any loss is going to be disappointing. It takes a little time to get over it, but we’ll bounce back,” Radabaugh said.
Lanham, a regular at prep softball games, attended the district championship at Rolf Park in Maumee.
“You played your hearts out on Saturday and fell just a little bit short, but that’s one of the best games played in Northwest Ohio that I can remember,” Lanham told the Clay players.
Thompson and Graham are among at least four Clay seniors headed to the next level after this season.
First Team All-Ohio second baseman Eryn Simon is headed to Walsh University and cleanup hitter Sarah Stibaner is considering Clarion University but is also talking to the University of Toledo, Radabaugh said.
Simon ended the season with a .425 batting average, including eight doubles, four triples, two home runs, 34 RBI and was a perfect 13-for-13 in stolen bases. Stibener batted .330 with six doubles, one triple, three home runs, and 34 RBI.
There are young stars on this team, too — Crawford, a sophomore, batted .500 with 53 hits in 106 at bats, along with three doubles, six triples, 34 runs scored, and she was 26-for-27 in stolen bases. Radabaugh says her speed helped her lead the team in steals and runs scored.
There were a total of nine Clay hitters who batted over .300 this season, but the party Tuesday was primarily for Owens signees. Attending was the entire team, coaches, and the signee’s families.
Thompson and Graham, who report to team organizational meetings this summer, will join Owens freshman infielder Matea Rice. Lanham says he knows where to look for recruits.
“Obviously, it goes back to when (Radabaugh) was at Central Catholic and I was at Sylvania Southview. You know, with Brenda, there are just certain programs around this area that you consider top notch programs,” Lanham said.
“Obviously, you consider Clay as one. You see what they’ve done, especially the last couple years and every year that I’ve been involved either competing against them or watching them play. They are a very strong program, and when you have a strong program that means you have strong players and great coaching,” Lanham continued.
“That’s half the battle when you bring the young ladies in from the high school to the collegiate level is the understanding what’s being asked of you — both in the classroom and on the field.”
Thompson batted .333 along with 27 hits and 16 RBI. Graham started 18 games in the circle for Clay, piecing together a 15-3 record in 135.1 innings pitched, allowing 23 earned runs, striking out 139, and finishing with an ERA of 1.19.
“Both of them are outstanding players — both big parts of our offense and defense — Kasey with pitching,” Radabaugh said. “She had a really good season pitching and that was a big step in having a good team.
“Hallie is just so smooth at shortstop. She covers a lot of ground and a left-handed bat in the line-up is always an asset, also. They’ll be greatly missed next year,” Radabaugh continued.
Lanham considers himself lucky to have landed both.
“I’ve known (father) Jeff (Thompson) and Hallie since she was much younger, and it’s the quality not only on the field, but the family, the dedication, the commitment that they have there,” Lanham said.
“I’ve watched Kasey this year, and a little bit last year, and the high recommendations that come with her and her competitiveness on the field says, ‘Hey, these are players I want.’ So we are very fortunate and very, very happy to be able to get that kind of quality both in the ability to play the game as well as in the person themselves.”