TIFFIN - Clay's hitting inferno took a little while to ignite, but once it did the Eagles escaped with a 4-1 win over Sandusky yesterday in a Division I district final at Tiffin University's athletic complex.
Junior second baseman Eryn Simon was the spark for Clay, as she has been for much of the season, in a three-run sixth inning that broke a 1-1 tie.
With one out and runners on first and second, Simon tagged an RBI double off the right field fence on a 1-1 offering from Sandusky sophomore Ashley Gilbert that gave the Eagles their first lead.
Simon and freshman center fielder Kim Crawford later came around to score on catcher Sarah Stibaner's single to right to give Clay a three-run advantage heading into the top of the seventh.
Junior pitcher Kasey Graham took it from there by retiring three of four Blue Streaks to cap the
"They tried to give me a heart attack today," Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said. "We were a little late getting the bats going. I don't know, we were just a little dead today with the bats early in the game. But once we got them going, they were rolling."
The Eagles (23-5) didn't record their first hit until the fourth inning - a double into the gap in left-center field from Crawford - and didn't get another until Simon sparked the rally in the sixth.
Gilbert proved effective at keeping Clay's hitters at bay by working the outside corner of the plate.
"We were trying to pull it and kept popping it up or swinging and missing," Radabaugh said. "When they decided to go with the pitch, then they hit good, solid shots to right."
After Graham escaped a jam in the first, Sandusky took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI double down the right field line by center fielder Sara Sidoti, who also came up with a pair of spectacular grabs in the outfield to stymie the Eagles early on.
Clay responded in the fourth when Crawford scored on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Lindsey Wise. But the Blue Streaks (16-12) stunted any potential rally by throwing out Stibaner, who was attempting to reach third on the play.
"I think we played probably our best game of the season," Sandusky coach Tom Garard said. "Clay came in here hotter than heck. They were getting 18, 19 hits a game, and [Gilbert] shut them down to four hits. We were in the game the whole way."
That is until Simon came through with the clutch hit that allows Clay to advance to Wednesday's regional semifinal against Northview at Clyde High School.
"I was just happy to finally get a hit," said Simon, who finished 1-for-3. "I was just trying to get a bat on the ball, get it in a hole, and it worked out."
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