The Clay batting order features no easy outs and the Eagles proved that Friday in a Division I softball district championship game.
Clay banged out 17 hits and produced two, five-run innings in a 13-3 rout of Notre Dame at Rolf Park in Maumee. Eight of the nine Eagle batters had at least one hit and six had multiple hit efforts to capture the program's first district championship since 2009.
Clay (25-3), ranked No. 9 in the state, advances to the regional semifinals. The Eagles will play Wednesday against Bowling Green or Anthony Wayne, who meet today for a district title at Clyde.
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Lead-off hitter Honnah Susor went 4-for-5 with two runs batted in. Lindsay Schiavone, Emily Novak, Haley Dominique, Jamie Miller, and Harleigh Isbell all had two hits apiece.
“Our bats were on fire tonight,” Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh. “Top through the bottom, we don't have a weak spot in our lineup. Everyone has been contributing. That's been true most of the year.”
Susor, who is one of six Clay hitters with an average above .400, keyed a five-run second inning.
“Honestly this is breathtaking,” Susor said. “We work together.”
Yet Notre Dame (18-9) struck first in dramatic fashion in the first inning. Junior shortstop Amanda Del Monte drilled a two-run home run to center field with Mary Ambruster on base. The line shot directly through a headwind traveled about 205 feet.
Clay starter Brooke Gallaher settled in after that, allowing five more hits to get the complete-game victory.
“I didn't let it bother me too much because it was the first inning and my team just cheered me up,” Gallaher said. “That's what kept me going. This feels awesome. I'm glad our team came through.”
Clay answered right back with five runs in the next inning. Two runs scored on a error. Brooke Gyori then followed with an RBI single. Susor brought in two more runs with a single up the middle to give Clay a 5-2 lead.
“I try to start it off so that we get a good roll going. And we go from there,” Susor said.
Clay added another run in the fourth as Isbell, who had singled, scored on an error for a four-run cushion.
“When you get a lead you need to shut down the opponent the immediate next at bat,” ND coach Norm Kujawa said. “We didn't do that. I thought that set the stage for the whole game. That put us in a hole and we weren't able to hit Gallaher hard again after that. But credit to them. They are a well-oiled machine top to bottom. I expect them to go far.”
Down 6-2, Notre Dame loaded the bases in the fourth with one out. But Gallaher got out of trouble with a fielder's choice and a strikeout.
“We stranded the bases loaded and that could have put us back in the game,” Kujawa said.
Clay pounced again in the fifth with a five-run inning. Dominque had an RBI single. Miller then tripled in another run to make it 8-2.
“The kids stayed positive [after falling behind 2-0 early],” Radabaugh said. “We've had good batting practice lately and they have confidence in their bats."
Notre Dame starter Cassie Gillespie then left the game after giving up eight runs, including three unearned, on eight hits.
But Clay added three more runs against reliever Jenna Inman. Hanna Cowell had an infield single for an RBI and Schiavone tripled in another to make it 11-2.
Clay went up by 10 runs on Miller's RBI single in the sixth, which scored Dominque who had tripled.
Notre Dame scored once in the sixth. But Clay came right back and made it 13-3 in the seventh when Susor scored on Gallaher's groundout.
It was the third time this season that Clay beat its Three Rivers Athletic Conference foe.
Radabaugh, who earned her 400th career victory earlier this season, guided Clay to the regional semis in 2002 and to the regional title game in 2009.
“District champs is a nice feeling,” Radabaugh said. “It's something we haven't had in awhile. There's a lot more to go.”