The City League softball semifinals fittingly featured pitchers' duels and both games were decided by one run.
Clay sophomore Brandy Holmes gave up just six hits and struck out nine to help the Eagles knock off Start 3-2 last night at Detwiler Park. Notre Dame senior Kelsey Brickman struck out 15, threw a complete-game six-hitter and drove in the winning run as her Eagles dropped St. Ursula 2-1.
Clay (20-5) remained undefeated in City League play (12-0) and advanced to the CL final for the first time since joining the league three years ago. Notre Dame, the two-time defending champion, looks for a three-peat in the City final tomorrow at
7 p.m. at Detwiler Park.
"We're happy to be back there," said Notre Dame coach Jordan Stevens. "It's been our goal since the start of the season. Clay's a very good team and we're happy to have a chance to get them back."
Six different Eagles had hits in Clay's win over Start and junior Kristina Rendle drove in two runs.
"We have a young team, but this has been one of our main goals," said Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh.
After Holmes struck out six of the first 10 batters she faced over the first three innings, the Clay offense struck.
Rendle drove in the first two runs with a bloop single over the first baseman's head. After a long battle at the plate, Rendle scored pinch-runner Kelsey Keeley and Mollie Berry.
"That was a nine-pitch at-bat," Radabaugh said. "She got behind early but battled back. That was a great at-bat."
But Start answered in the fourth with a run on three hits. Sara Porter drove in Katie Bowman, who had led off the inning with a single, to make it 2-1. The Spartans could have had another run on the play, but Lauren Orban was thrown out at the plate by Clay left fielder Dana Romstadt.
Orban, Start's junior pitcher, gave up just six hits and struck out two.
The Eagles made it 3-1 in the fourth on Amanda Watson's infield single that scored Alex Shellhammer.
Start's Steph Clegg came up with a two-out RBI double to pull the Spartans back within one in the top of the fifth.
But the young Eagles, who had won back-to-back junior varsity City titles on the strength of Holmes' arm, held on to advance.
"This is tons of fun," Holmes said. "I hope we can keep it up. Basically I throw and let the team field. It's a team sport. We're all friends and we have great team unity."
Brickman got it done on the mound and at the plate to lead Notre Dame into the finals for the third straight year.
She gave up just one run. The senior then came up to bat with the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the sixth with one on and two outs. After battling to a full count, Brickman ripped a solid shot into the left-center-field gap to plate the winning run.
"I loved that situation," she said. "I wanted to do it myself and I didn't want to let my teammates down. It felt amazing. It was a huge hit. Once I got that hit, I knew I could do the rest and finish it off."
Brickman then went out and struck out two Arrows batters to seal it.
"She's a big-time player who likes the big-time situations," Stevens said. "After we got the lead, she bared down and got ahead and hit her spots well. Fifteen strikeouts versus an offense like that is very impressive."
Notre Dame struck first when junior third baseman Whitney Shindorf led off the bottom of the fourth with a single. Shindorf then came home on a double by senior catcher Melissa Boraggina.
St. Ursula tied it in the sixth when Kelly Krueger and Shannon Masterson came up with back-to-back doubles. Masterson came home on Krueger's double to tie it at 1. Masterson went 3-for-3 with a double, two singles and an RBI.
Arrows pitcher Alyssa Schultz also gave up just six hits and also struck out 15 batters.
Clay defeated Notre Dame 3-2 in the only game between the two this season.
"I've never beaten Clay," Brickman said. "It would be great to end my high school career with a City League title."
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