Clay pitcher Brooke Gallaher, right, talks with catcher Emily Novak in the sixth inning when Elyria scored three runs in the Division I regional final.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
CLYDE — Powerhouse Elyria used instant runs to put an instant end to Clay’s postseason run Saturday.
The Pioneers hit two home runs to knock off the Eagles 4-1 in a Division I softball regional championship game.
Elyria (26-5), ranked No. 3 in the state poll, advances to the state semifinals for the third straight season and 10th time in school history.
The Pioneers had just five hits off Clay starter Brooke Gallaher. But Elyria senior Alexis Roseboro hit a solo homer in the fourth inning and freshman Carly Bachna smacked a three-run shot in the sixth to provide the difference.
“Two swings of the bat,” Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said. “Really only one mistake, so to speak. But she hit the ball hard and give her credit for that.”
Clay (26-4), ranked No. 5 in the state, had three hits off Elyria pitcher Caitlyn Minney.
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Clay sophomore Jamie Miller had an RBI single in the fifth inning to tie the score at 1. Pinch runner Courtney Quinlan scored on the play. Quinlan ran for Emily Novak, who had singled to start the rally.
“The first home run we answered and equalized that,” Radabaugh said. “I knew we could score and I knew we could come through. I thought we were going to score more ... because we’ve battled all year and have put the bat on the ball.”
Clay stranded four runners, including two in the fifth. Elyria turned a double play to end that threat.
Elyria coach Ken Fenik said he was convinced neither team would able to clear the fences with a steady wind blowing straight in from centerfield.
It was scoreless in the fourth inning when Roseboro drove the ball to dead center and just cleared the fences for a 1-0 Pioneer lead.
Patty Davis and Roseboro both led off the sixth inning with walks. Bachna hammered a line drive about 205 feet into a 20-mph wind over the left-field fence for a three-run home run to break the tie.
“I told them there was no way anyone was going to hit a ball out into that wind,” Fenik said. “Today they proved me wrong. It was unbelievable power from those two. That got us going and believing.”
Honnah Susor had the other hit for Clay against Minney, who struck out eight.
A senior who will play next season at Youngstown State, Minney kept the Eagles off-balance by working up and down while mixing in off-speed pitches.
“Everything was working,” she said. “I stayed the same the whole game. I caught them off-balance a couple times. I switched up my pitches to throw them off.”
Fenik said he was impressed with Gallaher’s ability to move the ball around.
“I thought fundamentally they had a great defense,” Fenik said. “They had only three defeats for a reason. Brenda’s teams are always defensively sound. They made some great catches.”
Gallaher, a junior, said she was pleased to be part of only the third team in program history to make it to the regional final. The Eagles also lost in the 2009 regional final.
“I’m happy that we made it this far,” she said. “I think we can come as far next year. We have a lot of returning starters. The outlook for next year is good.”
The Eagles, who will graduate only four seniors, had a rally snuffed out in the fifth when the Pioneers turned a double play.
“Our defense all around did a nice job today,” Radabaugh said. “We made some good plays in the outfield.”
Clay and Elyria each committed one error. The Pioneers won state titles in 2009 and 2002 and were state runners-up in 2006, 2007, and 2008. The Eagles knocked off Southview and Notre Dame to win a district title. Clay topped Anthony Wayne to reach the regional final.
“We are losing a few seniors, but we have a lot of young kids that have experience and will learn from this,” Radabaugh said. “We will come back strong next year.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.