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Clay’s bats were silent for three innings in Monday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference softball showdown at Notre Dame.
But they came roaring to life in a hurry, and the visiting Eagles pounded Notre Dame 10-1.
PHOTO GALLERY: Clay v. Notre Dame softball
Clay (20-2, 11-0 TRAC), ranked seventh in the Division I state coaches poll, pounded out 13 hits in support of senior ace pitcher Brooke Gallaher (11-1), who threw a five-hitter.
“It just takes a little bit of time to get the speed down and make contact,” Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said. “I have faith in our hitters. We’ve done a real good job all year long of making the adjustments in the box. Even early in the game we were hitting line shots. We were just hitting them right at people. Our bats came through when we needed them to.”
It was Notre Dame (12-7, 7-2) that had the game’s momentum early on. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead after just two batters in the bottom of the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Molly Walters greeted Gallaher with a triple to the right-field corner, and Mary Armbruster’s bunt got her home.
After Gallaher’s throwing error enabled pitching counterpart Cassie Gillespie to reach on a fielder’s-choice play, the Clay right-hander buckled down to get the next three batters without allowing another run.
Gillespie, who blanked the Eagles on one hit through three innings, was undone by the Clay bats in the next three innings.
With one out in the fourth, Baleigh Bocook singled, Jamie Miller doubled, and Hayley Schiavone followed with an RBI double. Bekah Yenrick walked, Gallaher had an RBI groundout, and Harleigh Isbell’s run-scoring single made it 3-1 Clay.
“There were some nerves, because usually we score right away,” Gallaher said. “But I knew we’d eventually get our hits through. I wasn’t too down about it.
“We got a little cushion and then we all calmed down a little bit after that. If we get one more win we’ll be TRAC champs two years in a row."
The first-place Eagles added four runs in the fifth, after Haley Dominique opened the inning by reaching on an error.
Bocook doubled, Miller walked, and Yenrick delivered a three-run double up the gap in right-center with two outs. Gallaher then singled Yenrick home for a 7-1 lead.
“Usually you just have to find your pitch and go with it,” Yenrick said. “That’s what we did. We came together as a team and just hit away. We have a really good hitting team. It’s a powerhouse.”
In the Clay sixth, Isbell singled with one out, Brooke Gyori doubled, and Honnah Susor, the TRAC’s leading hitter and player of the year, smacked a two-run double. Dominique’s RBI single completed the Eagles’ scoring.
“I was really happy we took that lead,” Notre Dame coach Norm Kujawa said. “That was important. But, in the back of your head you know that one run’s not enough, and obviously it wasn’t. You knew they were going to come to life.
“It was a matter of whether we could hit some more, and could we hold them down. The good team they are, they just got on a roll and kept on hitting. All the credit to them. They’ve earned their ranking, and are very deserving. They’re for real.”