Clay ran through its sectional with a 12-1 win over Whiteoak and for the fourth-straight season captured a district crown at Minford, first dispatching Belpre 6-5 and then defeating Reedsville Eastern 3-2. The run of one-run victories continued as the Lady Panthers beat Symmes Valley 9-8.
The loss closes the book on Clay’s season with a mark of 23-8.
Lyndsey Mader suffered the loss in the circle for Clay. Mader went six innings, gave up seven runs, four earned, on seven hits, striking out four and walking two Strasburg-Franklin hitters.
Mader’s counterpart, Kelsey Gerber, was in complete control. Gerber worked seven innings of shutout, one-hit softball. Gerber also fanned 15 Clay batters and walked nobody. Gerber retired the first 17 hitters she faced before Emily Spriggs legged out an infield single to ruin the gem in the top of the sixth inning.
“She (Gerber) was a good pitcher,” Clay coach Dick McCleese said. “We just couldn’t seem to get the ball in play like we normally do. It was just one of those days where the pitcher was just good. She threw a good game.”
This trip to the regional round is the fourth-straight year Clay has advanced to the regional tournament. The first trip, back in 2007, ended with a regional championship. In 2008 and 2009, Clay lost a pair of heartbreakers in the regional semifinal round to Danville in ‘08 and Green in ‘09. This trip ended with a loss in the regional finals.
Clay’s defense and young pitcher Mader were able to keep the contest scoreless through the first two innings. But in the third inning, an error proved costly for the Lady Panthers. Strasburg-Franklin’s Carly DiBacco singled, advanced to second on a sacrifice, and moved to third a fielders’ choice when the ball sailed over the first baseman’s head. Dibacco scampered home and Strasburg-Frankin led 1-0. In the fifth frame, the Lady Tigers struck again. DiBacco once again singled, advanced on passed ball, was sacrificed to third and scored when on a wild pitch.
Meanwhile, the Lady Panthers could not find the hitting touch against Gerber as the Lady Tigers’ right hander was handling the Clay batter order with relative ease.
The sixth inning was when Strasburg-Franklin busted the game open. A bases loaded walk to Melissa Silbey plated the first run in the frame. DiBacco drove in two more runs with single. Silbey and DiBacco both scored later in the inning on Clay errors to put the score ay 7-0 heading into the final inning.
“My kids never quit, “ McCleese said. “They didn’t quit today, and they play hard all the time. Once in a while somebody comes out on top. It just wasn’t out day today, but we are proud of our kids for the way they played all season long.”
The game marked the end for Clay senior first baseman Tori Osborne. Osborne has been on the team for the last four years and has been a part of each regional tournament run.
“She’s a great team leader,” said McCleese of Osborne. “We’re going to miss her. We are very proud of Tori, and we wish her all of the luck in the future,”
Clay 000 000 0 - 0 1 3
Strasburg-Franklin 001 015 X - 7 7 0
WP: Gerber; LP; Mader
Clay — Spriggs 1-3
Strasburg-Franklin — DiBacco 3-3 2RBI 3R, Silbey 0-2 RBI.
Record — Clay 23-8; Strasburg-Frankin 25-5