PORTSMOUTH — Just over two weeks after it first started, the Notre Dame Lady Titans and the Clay Lady Panthers were able to finally finish their game at Notre Dame High School. The two SOC I rivals were forced to wait 15 days before it would be known if Notre Dame would even the regular season series, or if Clay would make a sweep of the Lady Titans.
Resuming the game as it entered the fifth inning, the Clay Lady Panthers rallied, and erased a six-run Notre Dame lead to defeat the Lady Titans 9-8, winning both meetings between the two teams.
“We showed what we had today,” Clay softball coach Jason Gearheart. “We have a lot of fight. We didn’t ever give up, and we showed confidence. We knew we can play ball, and we’ve been playing really well lately.”
When the game began on April 6th, Notre Dame was in firm control, and had generated a six-run lead over Clay. After reaching the second inning, the game was delayed 30 minutes due to lightning, and would be delayed another 30 minutes just before resuming.
After both teams were held scoreless in the first inning, Clay broke through in the second inning, scoring two runs to take a 2-0 lead over Notre Dame.
The Lady Titans would not waste their second inning, as they were able to get their first two batters on base after a walk and then a fielding error. Two batters later, another walk would load the bases for Notre Dame, with only one out. A second fielding error in the inning would allow Hagen Schaefer to score.
Molly Hoover would then hit a two-RBI single to score Caitlyn Ball, and Hali McCallister, to give Notre Dame a 3-2 lead, and one out in the inning.
Notre Dame would add another run in the third inning to take a 4-2 lead.
As the game entered the fourth inning rain began to fall again, but was light enough to safely continue playing. After getting a quick three outs in the top of the fourth, Notre Dame looked to continue their batting successes.
The bottom of the fourth inning would be the biggest inning of the game for the Lady Titans, as Rylee Coriell, Baylee Webb, Makayla Hadsell, and Schaefer all scored during the inning, increasing the Notre Dame lead to six runs, 8-2.
As the rain continued to fall, and increased in its intensity, Notre Dame took the field and began to warm up for the fifth inning. However, during that time, the home-plate umpire noticed another bright strike of lightning, and then, along with the other umpire and both coaches, decided to postpone the game.
The game would resume 15 days later, entering the top of the fifth inning, with Notre Dame up six runs, 8-2.
Clay came out swinging as the game was resumed. The Lady Panthers brought four runners home, to cut the Notre Dame lead to only two runs, 8-6. Lila Brown, Shaelynn Vassar, Tressa Carter, and Cassidy Wells all scored to kick off the top of the fifth inning, and completely shake up the Lady Titans confidence and firm grasp on the game.
Notre Dame threatened in the bottom of the fifth inning. After two ground-outs, Webb, and then Maggie Whitman both reached safely with a pair of singles. Clay pitcher Hannah Oliver then loaded the bases after hitting Hadsell with a pitch.
Needing one out to get out of the inning, and a runner on each base, the freshman pitcher came up with a big strikeout to end the inning.
Continuing to trail the Lady Titans 8-6, Clay looked like they might score in the top of the sixth, with Bre Donahoe lurking at third base, itching to cross the plate to score. Maggie Whitman had other plans for the inning however, getting a swinging strikeout to end the inning, and preserve the Notre Dame lead.
Trailing by two runs in the top of the seventh, the Lady Panthers had the top of the lineup coming to the plate.
Jensen Warnock started the inning with a double. After a fly-out, Carter drove in Warnock with a single, cutting Notre Dame’s lead to only one run, 8-7.
Notre Dame then took advantage of a ground ball in the infield, to get the second out of the inning.
Collins then drew a walk to bring up Donahoe with two runners on base, and two outs in the top of the seventh, and trailing by one run.
Donahoe came through for the Lady Panthers with a clutch single that scored two runs, and gave the Lady Panthers a 9-8 lead over the Lady Titans.
Notre Dame was now in a position of score or lose, after losing their lead over Clay in the top half of the seventh. Hoover started the inning with a single, before getting thrown out trying to get back to first base after a pitch. Notre Dame appealed the call, but the call was upheld, securing the out.
Clay then finished off the next two batters thanks to a pair of ground-outs, completing the comeback win, 9-8.
“We just had a lot of fight in us today,” Gearheart said. “I’m very proud of our girls.”
Notre Dame coach JD Whitman was disappointed in the loss.
“You know, the breaks didn’t go our way,” Whitman said. “We made some errors, and we gave them four runs right out of the chute. We had two outs there (in the seventh), and were still up, and they made us throw a good pitch. That’s what happens.”
Whitman said his team will now focus on their next game, and leave the loss to Clay behind them.
“Hopefully we can prepare for the tournament now,” Whitman said.
Gearheat noted luck was on their side Thursday.
“We had some little things fall for us,” Gearheart said. “It was one of those great games, a great team, Notre Dame, it could have gone either way.”
With the win, the Lady Panthers remain undefeated in conference play, with four SOC games remaining, two with East and another two with Symmes Valley.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.