RUBYVILLE – It was another day at the office for the Clay Lady Panthers on Thursday evening as Clay continued to use excellent hitting and pitching in defeating the Whiteoak Lady Cats, 10-3, in a Division IV, Minford I Sectional Championship Thursday evening in Rubyville.
For Jason Gearheart, the opportunity to have two excellent pitchers on the hill during a single contest is a great luxury to have.
“Hannah and Julia bring different styles to the table,” Clay head coach Jason Gearheart said. “They work well together, they seem to be fired up when they get the chance to pitch and they compete against each other, which helps our team out. I am blessed to have two outstanding pitchers.”
Oliver, who obtained the win for Clay in the circle, pitched four full innings of four-hit, one-run softball and struck out five while walking none. Swain followed up Oliver’s efforts by recording five strikeouts over the final trio of innings to keep the Lady Panthers in control throughout.
With the renown pitching duo performing well in the circle, Clay had no trouble building a lead throughout the course of the affair. After Shaelynn Vassar doubled down the right field line to start the contest, Swain, who was the next batter in the Clay order, singled up the middle to bring Vassar home and give Clay a 1-0 lead after the first inning of play.
The lead held at one run until Clay produced some two-out thunder in the third inning. With one out, Jensen Warnock reached base on a fielder’s choice. Then, with two out and Warnock still on base, Bre Donahoe reached on an error and Cassidy Wells followed by delivering a RBI double to the outfield. The next batter, Elisa Collins, doubled in both Donahoe and Wells to stretch the lead to 4-0.
“We’re a slow-starting team,” Gearheart said. “We’ve been playing pretty good here lately. We haven’t played out best yet, but hopefully, it’s coming.”
Whiteoak pushed a run across in the fourth inning, as Ashlyn Moore’s RBI base knock plated Lexi Jones, who led off the inning with a double.
However, Clay didn’t miss a beat.
In the home half of the fourth inning, Lila Brown singled to start the rally, and Vassar followed by tripling to right-center to bring Brown home. Swain then stepped to the plate and drilled a two-run homer over the left center field fence, which gave the junior standout three RBI on the day.
Despite her personal accomplishments, Swain kept a team-centered mindset.
“This team has been very good,” Swain said. “We’re like sisters together and we keep growing. “If we go to Minford (District Tournament site) and win two there, we’re halfway to our goal of reaching the state tournament up in Akron.”
Clay tacked on another run in the fifth inning with Collins scoring on an error. Two more runs were added in the sixth with Abby Ware and Chloi Hayslip both picking up RBI on base hits.
With the win, the Lady Panthers improved their overall record to 26-1 in 2017. Clay will advance to the Division IV, Minford I District Tournament next week at Minford High School, where the Lady Panthers will play a familiar SOC I foe in the Eastern Eagles.