Notre Dame's Cassie Gillespie (14) celebrates with her teammates after hitting a three-run home run in a win over Clay. Gillespie also earned the win on the mound as Notre Dame won a sectional final crown.
Two of Notre Dame's seven losses this season have come against Clay, a familiar Three Rivers Athletic Conference foe.
Notre Dame used that fact as major motivation when the conference opponents met in a Division I sectional final on Tuesday at Rolf Park. Notre Dame entered the contest believing "it's hard for a team to beat a team three times."
Notre Dame -- led by sophomore pitcher Cassie Gillespie -- blanked Clay 4-0 to avoid a third loss to one team this season.
PHOTOS: Notre Dame vs. Clay
Gillespie not only recorded a complete-game shutout, she also tagged a two-out, three-run home run in the fourth inning.
"I'm just trying to do what's best for our team," said Gillespie, the talented sophomore, who held Clay to four hits while fanning five and walking four. "I just want to help our team win."
Gillespie's blast over the left-center field fence off of Clay's Brooke Gallaher came during the decisive fourth inning shortly after Clay committed one of its three errors during the game.
"This is a pretty big win for our team because they're a very good team," Gillespie said.
Notre Dame coach Norm Kujaway said the team that won the district final is not the same team that dropped two games to Clay during the regular season.
"Since the last time we played them we've been hitting a lot better," Kujaway said. "We also have a better feeling amongst ourselves."
Notre Dame will face Central Catholic in a regional semifinal on Tuesday at Rolf Park. Central defeated Northview 6-5 in nine innings in a district final.
Rachel Born, who registered two hits in the game, actually scored the game-winning run for Notre Dame shortly after she reached base earlier in the fourth inning with a single to center. Notre Dame (11-7) went ahead 1-0 on two outs when Mary Armbruster reached base on a slow infield grounder after Clay first baseman Hanna Cowell couldn't hold on to the throw to first. Born scored easily from third and gave Notre Dame the lead.
Gillespie blasted her sixth home run of the season off of Gallaher's next pitch to make it 4-0.
"It's definitely not a surprise about the things she does," Kujawa said of Gillespie. "She's kind of beyond her years. She's an excellent ballplayer all the way around and a good teammate."
The district final meeting certainly didn't play out the way Clay (15-8) would have preferred.
Clay stranded 10 baserunners and committed too many mistakes on the field.
Notre Dame's four runs were unearned.
"Our hits were spread out and we needed to string together a couple of hits," Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said. "But we still battled and never gave up.
"The errors on defense, they capitalized on that, and you have to give them credit for capitalizing on our mistakes."
Leadoff hitter Katie McKenty also had two hits for Notre Dame.
Clay's Brooke Thompson went 2-for-4 at the plate while Gallaher gave up seven hits, fanned eight, and walked one.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302, or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.
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