PORTSMOUTH — The Notre Dame Lady Titans have done little to no sharing in Southern Ohio Conference Division I play during the 2020-21 school year in the three major team sports.
In fact, that idea has been an emphasis in each of the three seasons of high school sanctioned sports at Notre Dame, and was again proven by their play on Thursday.
After Monday’s scheduled meeting with the Lady Titans and Clay was paused at the midway point entering the bottom of the fourth with ND ahead 2-0, both teams returned to Carol Vice Memorial Field to finish the contest.
With a possible outright league championship on the line when play resumed, Notre Dame continued what it started — besting the host Lady Panthers 8-2 and winning the program’s first solo league title since 2014.
“We didn’t want to share it, we wanted to win it outright,” ND coach J.D. McKenzie said, after the six-run victory. “We told them yesterday that no one in our building had won the league outright in softball. To send the seniors out like that, it’s pretty special.”
The victory continued the trend mentioned above — ND’s dominance against league opponents this school year.
In volleyball, girls basketball, and softball, the Lady Titans compiled a 36-0 record in SOC games, including 12-0 in their campaign in the diamond.
Of course, ND (17-0) has yet to drop a game against any opponent — league or non-league — and is set to begin their run in the Division IV postseason next week in a sectional final.
Including Thursday’s win over the Lady Panthers, the Lady Titans out-scored league foes by an astounding 152-4 run total.
The two Clay (17-5, 11-1 SOC) runs scored was the first time a league opponent had scored multiple runs on ND so far this campaign. Both teams met for the league title as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Division IV district tournaments, respectively.
Lady Panthers coach Jason Gearhart says that the test Notre Dame provided his team is one that will likely benefit rather than takeaway from their improvements over the course of the season.
“They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. Outstanding club, one of the best Notre Dame teams I’ve ever played,” Gearhart said. “Just to play with them, I think even though we lost, gives us great momentum going into tournaments.”
Lady Titans senior Claire Dettwiller cranked a solo home run to right center field in the top of the third inning to put ND ahead 1-0. Before the contest was postponed until Thursday, the Lady Titans added another run to make it 2-0 when sophomore Annie Dettwiller singled on a bunt and scored Isabel Cassidy from third.
ND freshman pitcher Gwen Sparks carried a no-hit bid from Monday’s postponement into Thursday’s restart, but Clay would finish the contest with four hits as a team — including a two run triple by senior Shaley Munion that cut the Lady Panthers’ deficit to 7-2 in the bottom of the sixth.
Sparks finished with 14 strikeouts and no walks in the complete game effort.
In their five-run fifth, Notre Dame scored a pair of runs via a passed ball and a fielding error.
RBI singles by seniors Isabel Cassidy and Ava Hassel and a sacrifice by freshman Kaylor Pickelsimer accounted for ND’s other three runs in the deciding fifth frame.
Lady Titans coach J.D. McKenzie said afterwards he was pleased with his team’s focus coming into the game and their aggressiveness once play resumed on Thursday.
“We got on them early, able to get runners on and get some bunts down. We were really aggressive in the fifth and able to put some pressure on,” McKenzie said. “Really proud of how focused they came out today.”
Clay entered both the start and the re-start expecting to win, but despite falling, Gearhart said he’s hoping the fight they showed in their late-game rally showcases itself again as they begin their postseason run next week.
The No. 2 seed Lady Panthers will host the winner of No. 15 seed Trimble and No. 18 seed New Boston in a sectional championship on Thursday, May 13 with a chance to host their Division IV district semifinal at Carol Vice Memorial Field the following week.
“We were pretty fired up coming into the game. We felt like we would compete a lot better than we did the first time, and we did that,” Gearhart said. “You face a team like that, you can’t make mistakes. The way we fought back in the final few innings, I hope that’s the team I have the rest of the way because they didn’t give up.”
Notre Dame will be attempting to win the program’s second consecutive Division IV district championship this postseason — and beyond.
The Lady Titans will open their 2021 postseason run with a home sectional final game versus the winner of No. 16 Whiteoak and No. 17 Western on Thursday, May 13.
“We’ve shown the ability to have straight-up hitting, and the ability to play small ball and get runners in. We’re pretty versatile,” McKenzie said. “As long as we can clean things up defensively and play error-free, I feel really good that we can make a deep tournament run.”
Notre Dame: 0 0 1 1 5 0 1 — 8 11 1
Clay: 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 — 2 4 4
W: Sparks (ND), L: Lutz (C)
Claire Dettwiller 2-3, HR, 2R, RBI, BB
Ava Hassel 2-4, R, RBI
Isabel Cassidy 2-3, 2R, RBI, BB
Kaylor Pickelsimer 0-3, RBI
Annie Dettwiller 3-4, 2R, RBI
Gwen Sparks 0-3, BB
Kyndall Ford 1-4, RBI
Madison Brown 1-4, R
Kat Cochran 1-3, R
Megan Bazler 2-3, R
Shaley Munion 1-3, 2RBI
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved