Clay’s support staff adjusted for the sake of the team

J. Patrick Eaken

The biggest thing the Clay softball team had going for it this year was that everybody was learning a new position.
        Ten players were voted either first or second team Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press, but that’s nearly the entire team.
        “I pulled up two kids from the JV team for tournament time, so we had only had 12 kids on the varsity to start the season — one broke her leg bad and had to have surgery right before the season started, so then we only had 11, and one kid quit, so we had 10 kids and two from the JV team,” Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said.
        “We had a small team this year but the kids were gelling really well and working hard and there were no complaints on my part.”
        No complaints, but it was a work in progress as the season developed. But, Radabaugh says her team did what it had to in order to finish 22-7, win a Three Rivers Athletic Conference co-championship and reach the Division I regional tournament.
        Because of the lack of numbers, returning varsity and junior varsity players had to make adjustments for the sake of the team. Here is Radabaugh’s explanation of how a few roles players made their adjustments.
        “Madison Yanez was our shortstop for the past couple years and is now catching for us,” Radabaugh said. “She did an outstanding job, blocking the ball really well and she has a strong arm. Early in the season she was a little antsy — she wanted to throw everybody out that she could so she had a couple throwing errors. But late in the season, she calmed down and did a great job working with our pitchers and that kind of stuff, so she did awesome.
        “Cam Cook was either playing right field for us, but this year she’s playing first for us. If (pitcher) Bri (Pawlaczyk) is pitching, she is playing first, and if Bri is playing first, she is in the outfield. She was a returning sophomore. She’s been so dependable on the field for us.
        “Tori Gallaher is a senior at second base. Last year she was at second, then she was at right at the end of the season and we got her back at second this year. You got any wood around here (for luck). She’s been playing outstanding defense and did not make an error this year. She did awesome at second. She struggled hitting early in the year, but caught on fire late in the season and just was awesome for us hitting.
        “Junior Kennedy Slovak is at short after playing third for us last year. She’s very athletic so she makes some great plays for us, but she’s also had some bobbles, errors. She is a multi-sport athlete who bats in the four-slot for us, hitting the crap out of the ball. She’s struggled with errors from time to time, but late in the season was good.
        “Jenna Vislay plays at third after being at left last year. She’s been great. We played Whitmer and I swear two out of every three balls hit, they hit to third base and she was just outstanding at third for us.
        “Our outfield corners, we have Macy Burgess and Bella Kennedy that played second and short on JV last year, and played left and right for us this year. Both of them are quick and they’ve improved immensely in the outfield as the season has gone on. They’ve made some great catches for us throughout the year.
        “Grace Smith has been our DP most of the season. She’s a junior, new on varsity, but she’s been hitting almost every pitcher we face she’s been getting hits against. We could not keep her out of the lineup because she’s been hitting so well and Bella Kennedy has not been hitting a lot, and Grace has been hitting for her.”
        Did it pay off? Everyone of those defensive role players were voted by coaches from five leagues to the All-Press first or second team with just one getting honorable mention,


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