WILLOW WOOD, Ohio — The Clay Lady Panthers made it two-for-two against the Symmes Valley Lady Vikings on Tuesday evening, as Clay came out triumphant to take a sole claim to the SOC I softball championship. Clay took the final game of the two-game series against Symmes Valley on Tuesday night, defeating the Lady Vikings 12-10.
Just 24 hours after winning game one at home Monday evening, the Lady Panthers took the long and windy trip to Willow Wood, Ohio to face the Lady Vikings of Symmes Valley High School.
Symmes Valley jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after the first inning, confirming Clay softball coach Jason Gearheart’s comments from Monday evening as he predicted Symmes Valley would be ready to play on Tuesday.
“They busted us in the mouth pretty good,” Gearheart said.
The Lady Vikings started off with great momentum in the first inning, which forced Gearheart to switch pitchers as the game went into the second inning.
“I switched pitchers, and brought in Warnock,” Gearheart said. “I brought her in, in the second inning, and she kept them down to three runs in the five innings she pitched. She did really well.”
Gearheart calmed his young team down between the first and second innings, reminding them they had come back from large deficits before.
“I told them it was no different than when we were down six (runs) against Notre Dame, and we scored seven (runs) in three innings,” Gearheart said. “I just told them we’ve been here before and to relax and that we can do it.”
Clay didn’t seem phased at all, according to Gearheart.
“They were pumped up, and they just kept chipping away,” Gearheart. “I tell you what, we’re a young team, but we don’t play like a young team. I’m really proud of them.”
In the top of the second inning, Clay cut their six-run deficit by two runs, bringing the Symmes Valley lead to 6-2.
Symmes Valley added one run in the second, to increase their lead to five runs, 7-2.
The fourth and fifth innings would change the course, as well as the momentum, of the game. The Lady Panthers were able to put two big innings together. Clay scored a total of seven runs in the two innings, four in the fourth and three in the fifth, while holding Symmes Valley to two runs, which came in the fifth.
After trailing by six runs, the Lady Panthers had fought back to completely erase the Lady Vikings lead by the beginning of the sixth inning.
With the game tied, 9-9, and each team being held scoreless in the sixth inning, the game, and whether or not Clay would win the SOC I outright came down to the seventh inning.
Clay captured the shifting momentum of the game to score three runs in the top of the seventh, taking a 12-9 lead over Symmes Valley.
The Lady Vikings were forced to face Hannah Oliver, in a relief appearance, with a three-run deficit, and only three outs to climb out of the hole.
Oliver and the Clay defense held Symmes Valley to only one run in the bottom of the seventh inning, to take a 12-10 win over the Lady Vikings, and claim the SOC I title.
After defeating Symmes Valley for the second time, Clay improved their conference record to 14-0, while taking their overall record to 22-3.
Julia Swain got the start for Clay, pitching one inning. Warnock came in as relief in the second, until Oliver closed out the game pitching in the sixth and seventh innings.
In her two innings, Oliver allowed one run, which was earned, walked one batter and struck out one Lady Viking.
Kingery took the mound for the Lady Vikings Tuesday evening. She pitched a complete game with seven innings of work, allowing 12 runs, eight earned, off 14 hits. The Symmes Valley hurler walked two batters and struck out six.
Bre Donahoe and Gabby Hickman led Clay in hitting Tuesday evening. Both went 3-3 on the night, with Donahoe driving in two runs, scoring twice, and hitting two doubles. Hickman scored three runs and hit one double.
Tressa Carter went yard against Kingery in her 2-3 performance at the plate. Aside from the home run, Carter had one RBI, scored twice, and hit a double.
Symmes Valley had three Lady Vikings with two hits on the night. Webb, Hatfield, and Kingery all had a pair of hits.
Webb scored twice going 2-4, while Hatfield drove in two runs with her 2-5 performance at the plate.
Kingery helped her own cause by scoring once while hitting 2-4.
Clay has a couple of games remaining on the regular season, which Gearheart hopes to use to further build his team’s momentum as they head into tournament play.
“It’s what you want to have (heading into the postseason),” Gearheart said. “This is the second SOC (I) title for me, but we’ve never had one going undefeated (in conference play). We are just on a roll and everything is clicking for us. I play just about everybody on the team and they all do something. They either pinch run, they accept their role. I use the DP/Flex a lot, and everybody just plays as a team. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.