In a showdown of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference’s preseason softball co-favorites Wednesday, host Clay’s half of this convocation of Eagles was the whole story in a 10-0 victory over Notre Dame.
For starters, junior right-handed pitcher Brook Gallaher of Clay hurled her first career no-hitter, striking out eight batters. Only two walks separated her from a five-inning perfect game after the mercy rule was applied in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the fifth.
The rest of the damage was provided by a balanced Clay offense, which had nine hits off of Notre Dame junior pitcher Cassie Gillespie, who was further hindered by the four errors committed by her Eagles teammates.
“I’m very excited and happy because they’re a very good team,” Gallaher said. “I play travel ball with a couple of their girls, so I was a little scared to throw to them.’
“But my team backed me up on defense and, when we needed a hit, they came through.”
The surprisingly lopsided game took just 65 minutes to complete, ending when Harleigh Isbell singled home pinch-runner Courtney Quinlan for Clay’s 10th run.
“Notre Dame is a very good team and I never ever dreamed that it would be this kind of an outcome today,” Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said. “I expected a low-scoring, one-run game.
“We just hit the ball well today. We work on aggressive base-running, and we’re going to keep pushing that until [the opponents] prove we can’t do it. We’re going to keep going hard.”
Notre Dame (3-4, 1-1 TRAC) returns the bulk of its lineup from a team that reached the Division I regional final last May. Clay (8-1, 2-0) also has a healthy portion of its varsity roster returning from a team that tied eventual playoff champion Central Catholic for first place in the TRAC standings in 2012.
For the record, neither Radabaugh nor Gallaher and her teammates knew they had completed a no-hitter until checking the scorebook during the team’s postgame huddle near the pitching circle.
“Usually with about an inning to go I start wondering, ‘Hmm, is this a no-hitter?’” Radabaugh said. “I never ask for the book because I don’t want to ask and jinx it. Today, I had no clue.
“It surprised me because they’re pretty good hitting team. But Brooke threw well, and the defense was solid behind her. We had hits from the top of the order through the bottom, so it was a solid, all-around effort today.”
The 46-degree temperature did little to chill the bats of the host Eagles.
After Gallaher set ND down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Clay jumped on Gillespie for four hits to go with two errors en route to a 4-0 lead after one.
Gallaher landed the first home run on a single off Gillespie’s glove to plate Clay leadoff hitter Honnah Susor. Lindsay Schiavone (2-for-3), had reached on an infield single in between. Clay catcher Emily Novak added an RBI single later in the inning.
Sophomore cleanup hitter Jamie Miller delivered Clay’s fifth run in the third inning, driving a 3-1 offering from Gillespie over the fence in right field for her first home run of the season.
The Eagles combined singles from Brooke Gyori and Schiavone with two more Notre Dame errors, plus a hit batsman, to increase their lead to 9-0 after four innings.
Clay secured the abbreviated no-hitter for Gallaher two batters into the fifth inning. After Hanna Cowell led off with a single, pinch-runner Quinlan stole second, then scored on a single to right from Isbell (2-for-3).
Gallaher’s walks came against Notre Dame’s Nikki Wilkins, in the second inning, and Gillespie, in the fourth. She struck out the side in between in the third, and closed her outing by fanning Rachel Born and Cory Brickman.
“I thought Cassie did a good job of making her pitches, and I’m not sure what happened with the defense,” ND coach Norm Kujawa said. “It didn’t seem like we were prepared.
“I don’t know if it was the weather conditions, or what, but we didn’t make plays. We got behind right from the get-go.
“Gallaher was really good. She moved the ball around and kept us off balance. She was very effective with her changeup and just did an outstanding job. We didn’t do a good enough job adjusting to her.”
Notre Dame, which eliminated Clay from the 2012 state tournament in D-I sectional play, is scheduled for a TRAC rematch with the Eagles May 3 at Notre Dame.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.