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CLYDE - Many have tried and failed, but Tess Sito proved to be successful in quieting Clay's explosive offense in the postseason.
Elyria's senior right-hander went the distance in a 3-1 victory over the Eagles Saturday in a Division I softball regional final, sending the Pioneers to their fourth straight state semifinals.
Sito carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Clay senior Monica Reeves' one-out groundball found the gap between shortstop and third base.
"I knew we'd put the ball in play sooner or later," Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said. "I would have rather it been sooner, but we tried to stay aggressive with the bats."
The Eagles finally got on the board an inning later when junior Eryn Simon hit a chopper to third base and Elyria junior Ashlee Stolarski airmailed her throw to first. That allowed junior Hallie Thompson to come all the way around to score from first, knotting the score at 1.
"Eryn Simon has done a great job putting the ball in play all year long," Radabaugh said. "She put the bat on the ball, and that's what we needed."
But the Pioneers (27-3), who finished the regular season atop the state coaches poll, answered right back in the top of the seventh thanks to some defensive miscues from the Eagles.
Senior Kristen Fyffe led off the inning and reached base after her groundball sneaked through the legs of Clay third baseman Lindsey Wise. Two batters later, Sito came to the plate and blasted a one-out double off the wall in left-center field. Thompson's throw home sailed over catcher Sarah Stibaner's head, allowing Fyffe to score and Sito to advance to third.
Moments later, while Clay junior right-hander Kasey Graham was trying to deliver her very next pitch, the ball slipped out of her hand and Sito raced home to give the Pioneers a two-run advantage, one they would not relinquish.
"Sometimes you have to have a little luck to win in the [postseason]," Elyria coach Ken Fenik said.
After the game, Radabaugh questioned her decision to pitch to Sito in the seventh.
"Hindsight is 20-20," Radabaugh said. "Had I called for an intentional walk, who knows what would have happened after that? I can take the blame for that."
After scoring 33 runs in their previous five playoff games, the Eagles (24-6) finally met their match yesterday.
Sito, who will continue her softball career at Cleveland State next season, allowed just two hits and struck out 15, moving her season record to 24-3.
"My pitching felt a lot better today than yesterday," said Sito, who threw a no-hitter in Elyria's win over Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a regional semifinal here Friday.
"My defense stepped up like always. These two days were awesome, and I'm just so happy that we won."
Although Sito surrendered her first run of the postseason, she has yet to give up an earned run in six playoff games.
"I'll take Tess against everybody," Fenik said. "Just unbelievable. She's the real deal. I don't know if there will ever be anybody better than her."
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