Count ‘em — 10 Clay players get first or second team

By: 
J. Patrick Eaken

So there are only nine players on the field at any one time in a softball game, unless you also count a designated player or a fielder who doesn’t bat.
        Clay’s softball team has defied the odds, getting 10 players voted to the first or second team Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Team.
        Why shouldn’t they? After all, the Eagles play a mostly high quality schedule against Division I opponents, and that includes another regional tournament run where they fell to a familiar foe, Elyria.
        While the entire starting roster was awarded with All-Press first or second team honors, coach Brenda Radabaugh is the All-Press Coach of the Year.
        Radabaugh was inducted in the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association on January 18.
        She beats out by two votes second place Joe Wyant, the Eastwood coach who won the honor last year. Also getting votes were Oak Harbor coach Chris Rawski, Gibsonburg coach Martin Brown and Genoa coach Michael A. Burriola.
        It was Radabaugh’s 15th league title, most of them while coaching at Clay. In 27-plus years, Radabaugh’s softball teams have compiled a 546-190 record while earning 19 sectional and seven district championships.
        She was awarded league coach of the year honors 10 times, the Northwest District Coach of the Year accolade three times and the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Coach of the Year on three occasions. She received the state’s Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award in 2016 and the Buckeye Cable Sports Network Coach of the Season in 2017. She coached the district all-star team three times and the Northwest District Underclass All-Star Team twice.
        This year, Clay finished the season 22-7 overall and 12-2 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, good enough to share the title with Whitmer (17-10, 12-2).
        Radabaugh’s first team All-Press selections are junior shortstop Kennedy Slovak, senior center fielder Tiffany Stevens, and senior pitcher Brianna Pawlaczyk. Stevens, who signed to play NCAA Division I softball at the University of Akron, was the TRAC Player of the Year, first team all-league and second team All-Ohio and Pawlaczyk, the league’s Pitcher of the Year, was first team all-league.
        Senior second baseman Tori Gallaher, junior designated player Gracie Smith and junior catcher Madison Yanez are also first team All-TRAC selections and earning second team all-league is Slovak.
 
Getting the district title
        However, the season did not start well because of defensive mistakes, but by the end of the season they were clicking.
        “We had some errors early in the season,” Radabaugh said. “The first time we played Springfield earlier this year, I want to say we had an error in every inning, if not two in a couple innings. It was ugly and we lost — we got mercied.
        “So, when we played them in the district game, we played great defense. We knew we had to take care of the ball and play great defense and we had to hit because the previous time we played Springfield we had two hits. (Springfield pitcher) Taylor Turner is very strong.”
        In the Division I district tournament at Rolf Park in Maumee, the Eagles won 3-0 over Notre Dame and 3-1 over Springfield to advance to the regional, where they fell to eventual state final four qualifier Elyria, 4-2. Getting through the district tournament was a task in itself.
        “We had Notre Dame the first game and (pitcher) Caitlyn Kowalkski, we were hitting her,” Radabaugh said. “I know she was not 100 percent — she’d been having problems with her hip this year. But she’s still a very good pitcher and had something like 12 strikeouts, but we were good enough that we put the ball in play and did enough to get a win in that game.
        “Then coming into Springfield, we knew we had to play our best. We had to play good defense and we had to hit the ball, so we worked a ton on those two things — hitting faster pitching and playing great defense, and we did exactly what we had to do.
        “That last inning, the highlights of it are out there, but we had threatened throughout the game and just couldn’t get a run across on the board,” Radabaugh continued.
        “In the seventh inning we started off with a walk, we tried to bunt her, squared around to bunt and a wild pitch went over the catcher’s head and she’s at second. Squared off to bunt again, and a wild pitch was over the catcher’s head and she’s at third. Put a bunt down, they thought we were going to squeeze, we weren’t squeezing, so now we have runners on the corners, so then they started to get rattled after that.
        “We stole second, so we’ve got runners on second and third and our batter gets a hit into the five-six hole (between shortstop and third base) and ties the game at 1-1. The second run scored on a fielder’s choice — we had (sophomore) Cam Cook, our first baseman, had a 10-pitch at-bat where she battled and battled, and hit a ground ball to short and on the throw our girl at third scores the go-ahead run.
        “When we scored the third run, we had runners on first and third and (senior) Tori Gallaher hit a shot that almost hit our girl running from first to second, but got through so we scored our third and were up 3-1 going into the bottom of the seventh because they were the home team.
        “The first (Springfield) out was a ground ball to the pitcher, the second out is a ground ball to our shortstop, and the third out we wanted to get, but we hit their No. 2 batter, so now their No. 3 batter is up — their best batter who is also their pitcher and tying run at the plate.
        “The very first pitch she hit and it’s going to deep center field, and in my head I’m thinking ‘They just tied the game—that’s gone.’ Tiffany Stevens gets to the fence. She’s touching the fence with her hand, she jumps and goes up and makes the catch well above the fence, so now, game over. It was an awesome, exciting win for us. I mean, tears on one side and joy on the other. They beat us the first time by 10 and this time we beat them, 3-1.
        “That was huge, so yeah, we had some big wins at the end of the season. We were peaking at the right time. The kids were working hard and having lots of fun.”
 
 
       
 
 
 
 

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