PEDRO, Ohio – It was a battle of Panther pride Saturday morning at Rock Hill High School, as the Queen of the Hill Classic helped kick off the high school softball season with the Clay Lady Panthers facing off against the Chesapeake Lady Panthers in one of the day’s opening games.
With the help of an impressive performance by freshman pitcher Hannah Oliver, the Clay Panthers started the season off with a 13-0 rout of the Chesapeake Panthers.
“For as young as we are, I’ve got eight freshman on the team, it was very impressive,” Clay softball coach Jason Gearheart said. “I’ll try to not get too high with this, because it’s just one game, but they looked really good, and we’ve been practicing really hard.
“I think they’ve had cabin fever, because we’ve only had one scrimmage before this. You couldn’t ask for a better start, they did everything I asked them to do. It was a good win for us.”
Oliver, who was making her first high school start, was spectacular on the mound Saturday morning. She gave up only two hits to Chesapeake, in her complete game performance.
The Clay defense dominated Chesapeake’s bats throughout the first three innings of the game, as Chesapeake went three up and three down in those innings.
Clay showed little problems in the batter’s box, as they got the momentum rolling, picking up three runs in the top of the first inning.
Tressa Carter knocked in Jensen Warnock to get the scoring started for Clay, followed by a two RBI double by Bre Donahoe.
Clay was then held scoreless in the second inning, but fired back in the third to score again.
Carter got the offense started with a single off Chesapeake pitcher Melanie Noble. Shaelyn Vassar laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Carter, who eventually ended up at third base. Carter would find her way home after an RBI single by Donahoe.
In the bottom of the third inning Oliver showed her dominance, as she struck out two straight batters after surrendering a walk.
Heading into the top of the fourth, Clay had a 4-0 lead over Chesapeake, but would expand that lead to great margins in the inning.
Clay scored five runs in the top of the fourth. Rachel Cooper found home plate after a throwing indecision by a Chesapeake infielder. Gabby Hickman, Elisa Collins, Carter, and Vassar would all also score in Clay’s best run scoring inning in the game.
As the game headed into the top of the sixth inning, Clay would score yet again, this time by way of the long ball, as Carter sent an 0-1 pitch soaring over the fence in right-center field.
Clay would score three more runs after Carter’s solo shot. Cassidy Wells picked up a big double, which scored Donahoe. Wells then scored after a passed ball. The final run of the inning came off a Hickman double that scored Lila Brown.
After the four-run inning, Clay led Chesapeake 13-0, and forced the Panthers from Chesapeake to score at least four runs to send the game into the seventh inning.
Oliver refused to allow a seventh inning, as the Chesapeake Panthers were limited to just a single in the sixth inning, their second hit of the game.
Due to the score differential, the game was called, with Clay picking up a 13-0 win to start the season.
Gearheart was proud of the way the game started for Clay, picking up a quick score.
“It was momentum, actually to start the whole season with,” Gearheart said. “Everybody has been anxious, and there’s been a lot of talk about this team, but we’re still young and that was a great start for us.”
There were no signs of nervousness by Oliver in her first high school start.
“This was her first high school game,” Gearheart said. “She’s got all the pitches. She changes speed well. She won’t always overpower you, but she can sometimes. She’s just a good solid pitcher.”
Clay – Warnock 2-3, Collins 1-4 (Sac), Carter 4-4, Vassar 2-4, Donahoe 3-4, Wells 1-3 (Sac), Brown 1-3, Cooper 1-4, Hickman 2-4
Chesapeake – Russell 0-2 (BB), Huff 1-4, Rice 1-3
W –Oliver (1-0) 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 5 K, 1 BB
L – Noble (0-1) 6 IP, 14 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 6 K, 2 BB
Records – Clay 1-0; Chesapeake 0-1
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.