Shadyside comes up short to Clay-Battelle

ELM GROVE — For the first time in school history, Clay-Battelle will play for an OVAC Class 2A Softball championship.

The top-seeded Cee-Bees (18-1) won for the 12th straight time Monday afternoon with a 5-4 triumph over No. 4 Shadyside in 8 innings in semifinal action on Lisa’s Field at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Youth Sports Complex. They will now meet No. 2 Bridgeport for the title either Friday or Saturday. The date and time will be announced later today as Clay-Battelle has prom Saturday night.

“I’m not sure it has sunk in yet,” Clay-Battelle head coach Butch Varner said of the hard-earned victory. “I have a lot of respect for that program (Shadyside) over there. Their coaches do a great job. We’ve played the last two or three years and it really announces where our program is moving that we are capable of competing at this type of level with that type of program.”

With the score deadlocked at 4 and runners on first and second and two out in the bottom of the eighth, Varner called Ronda Petrucci down the third base line before she settled into the batter’s box. She was 0-for-4 to that point with a trio of pop outs.

“All we need is a hit. Put the ball in play. Get in there and get your feet set. Put it in play and we’ll see what happens,” he recalled of his brief pep talk. “And she did.”

Petrucci hit a rope that was headed for centerfield, but Shadyside shortstop Kiley Jo Baker made a diving stab. However, she couldn’t get the ball out of her glove in time to flip to second baseman Madison Davis for the forceout. By the time davis received the throw, Alivia Ammons, the runner that had been on second, never hesitated rounding third and scored easily, setting on a wild celebration among the Cee-Bees.

“In a ballgame like this, when you get a chance you’ve got to go ahead and try to make a play,” Varner said his decision to send Ammons. “They did it a couple of innings before and it backfired. Fortunately for us, we made one more play than they did.”

The Tigers (8-8) led 1-0 after half-and-inning as Sydnie Destifanes doubled down the rightfield line leading off. She scored when Davis’s sacrifice bunt was thrown wildly to first.

Clay-Battelle, which hasn’t lost since dropping a 6-4 decision to Wheeling Central on the same field on April 1, scored four times in its first at-bat, with a two-out error paving the way.

Rylee Burnette doubled to right-center leading off and winning pitcher Caitlyn Kassay drew a one-out walk. A flyball moved Burnette to third before Hannah Hall’s grounder to the left side was misplayed as a run scored. Madison Statler followed with a RBI double to left-center and Alicia Keener singled through pitcher Brooke Reager’s legs that scored two runs as the designated hosts went up 4-1.

“That was definitely a rough start. I don’t know if it was nerves or what?” Shadyside head coach Jillian Ongley said. “It’s rough when you only give up one hit and they score four runs, but I’m proud of the way the girls battled back. That’s the good thing about these girls all season, they never hung their heads, not even when we were 0-4. They still give it their all and that’s all you can ask.”

The score remained that way until the Shadyside fifth as Reager and Kassay were trading goose eggs.

With one out, Destifanes singled to center and promptly stole second. Davis picked up an RBI with an infield single as Destifanes raced home. Baker singled and Izzy Swords’ roller up the middle resulted in an infield single as Davis and Baker crossed the plate tie things at 4.

Shadyside got a runner to second in the sixth; had a runner thrown out at the plate to end the seventh; and had a runner on third with one out in the eighth and didn’t score.