RUBYVILLE – The Clay Lady Panthers took the field, Wednesday afternoon, with their undefeated SOC I intact and exited the field the same way after an 11-1, mercy rule, six-inning win over Notre Dame in Rubyville.
Hannah Oliver picked up the win in the circle for Clay. Oliver threw six innings of one-run, five-hit softball to notch the victory for the Lady Panthers. Oliver fanned five batters and allowed one walk during the contest.
“Hannah Oliver, when her changeup is on, even if you know it’s coming it’s hard to hit,” Clay head coach Jason Gearheart said.
Oliver’s efforts in extinguishing the Notre Dame attack was aided by the explosiveness of the Clay offensive attack. A four-run opening inning, followed by a three-run second frame gave Clay the lead and the Panthers finished off the visiting Titans with a four-run sixth inning.
Maggie Whitman was hit with the loss for Notre Dame. Whitman gave up seven runs on five hits and gave up three base on balls. Cassie Schaefer came on in relief giving up four runs on seven hits in two and one-third innings of action
Notre Dame loaded the bases in the top of the first inning, but Oliver induced a pop out to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, the Panthers were able to cash on their two-out rally. Julia Swain singled in Elisa Collins who had drawn a walk to lead off the frame. The next batter, Cassidy Wells, cleared the bases with a triple to right center field, which plated Shaelyn Vassar and Swain. Moments later, Wells scored on an error to put Clay up 4-0 early.
In the second inning, the Lady Panthers continued to add to their lead. A lead-off walk by Notre Dame proved costly as Lila Brown was brought in by a Vassar single. A Jensen Warnock sacrifice fly plated Collins and Bre Donahoe’s groundout scored Vassar to put Clay up 7-0.
“Against a great team like Notre Dame, you have to score first, especially at home,” Gearheart said. “That’s what we did. We put some pressure on them and the girls relaxed. It was a good win for us.”
In the meantime, Oliver had overcome her first inning jitters, as the sophomore ace retired nine of the next 11 she faced. Notre Dame broke through in the fifth inning. A lead-off single by Alex Glockner, followed by a sacrifice and an error, scored the aforementioned to give the Titans the only run that they would muster against Oliver and the Lady Panthers all game.
“It all boils down to hitting the changeup,” Notre Dame head coach J.D. Whitman said. “She (Oliver) threw 90 percent changeups. She figured out we were out in front of the ball and we weren’t waiting on it.”
Clay’s third baseman Shaelyn Vassar played Wednesday with a heavy heart. On Tuesday, Shaelyn lost her grandfather, Bill Piatt who Coach Gearheart described as “the biggest Clay fan you’ve ever seen.” Gearheart said that he would like to dedicate Wednesday’s victory and the rest of the season to Bob Piatt.