Clarke County softball can’t solve Seale in 5-1 loss
BERRYVILLE — With all the youth, inexperience, and new faces on the Clarke County softball team, it comes as no surprise that the Eagles didn’t know exactly what to expect when perennial Bull Run District power Madison County came to Berryville Monday afternoon.
It is safe to say Clarke County certainly didn’t expect to be no-hit through six innings, however, that’s exactly what happened.
In fact, Mountaineers senior Lauren Seale was perfect in the circle through six innings, and though she couldn’t put the cap on a perfect game, she was able to carry Madison County to an important 5-1 victory at Clarke’s Grubbs Field and propel the Mountaineers into first place in the district standings.
Entering the game both teams had only one loss, but were undefeated in district play. Clarke County has played two more district games then the Mountaineers.
“I’m still not happy with the hitting, we hit the first three innings but then got stale,” said Madison County coach Jesse Yowell. “I think we relaxed too much when we got the lead. We’re trying to get them to be more aggressive every time they get up to bat. We’re going to need that later on at some point.
“Even with a five-run lead you don’t like to see what happened there at the end, but at least we came out on top.”
Madison County (5-1, 4-0 Bull Run District) threatened in the first with two outs but was turned away when Chandler Gentry grounded out sharply to end the inning.
As it turned out, the Mountaineers scored all the runs Seale would need in the second inning.
Catcher Grace Estes led off the inning with a base hit and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Raegan Clatterbaugh then singled to put runners on the corners.
Third baseman Taylor Yowell drove in the first run on a fielder’s choice and the Mountaineers made it 2-0 later in the inning when Clatterbaugh scored on a Clarke County throwing error.
It was the first of a handful of errors that proved to be costly for the Eagles, and most of them came in a disastrous third inning.
The first three hitters in the top of the third, Megan Shifflett, Seale, and Gentry, all reached on Clarke County errors. Shifflett and Seale both reached on two-base errors making it 3-0.
Gentry reached on the third Eagles’ error of the inning and reached second on yet another, putting two more in scoring postion.
Estes made it 4-0 by lifting a sacrifice fly to right and later in the inning Gentry scored the fifth run of the game on a groundout off the bat of Bailey Colvin.
All the while Seale was cruising in the circle, not allowing anyone near first base, let alone on it. She coasted through the first six innings perfectly while striking out nine.
While youth certainly has it’s disadvantages, sometimes it can a good thing. Not completely realizing maybe what they were up against, the youthful Eagles rallied in the seventh.
Clarke County (8-2, 6-1) finally got a base runner when its leadoff hitter. freshman Kendall Benoit, slapped an 0-2 pitch to left-center field for a base hit.
Benoit was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Tiffani Adams, but the Eagles were far from done.
Shortstop Lexi Call singled to right, putting runners on the corners, and cleanup hitter Allie Hicks placed a perfect swinging bunt down the third-base line for an RBI single.
Unfortunately for the home faithful, that’s where the rally ended as Seale was able to pick up another strikeout, her 10th of the game, and avoid any more damage while closing out the game.
“I knew we were at the top of the lineup with good hitters [to start the seventh], so I knew I had to pitch around them a lot,” Seale said. “When you’re facing good hitters for the third time they’re eventually going to get a hit off of you. I kind of expected it from a team like Clarke, they’ve always had good hitting.”
“[The 5-0 lead] was big because it gives you a little room to move around and if they get a run off you like they did it’s not a big deal, Our team is hitting really well and fielding really well. Just being in the gym I’m really surprised with where our defense is right now, but I’m really happy because all the girls are working together really well.”
In the end Madison outhit the Eagles 6-4, but five of the Mountaineers six hits came in the first four innings while all four of Clarke’s hits came in the seventh. The Eagles did dig themselves a hole with five errors and four unearned runs. They also had a critical base-running error that ended the rally and the game in the seventh inning with the tying run coming to the plate.
“Defensively we let down on a couple of things, but nothing we can’t fix,” said Clarke County coach Susan Grubbs. “I think the girls’ spirit was great, they kept in it, they kept battling. I mean, they got down 5-0 early but they didn’t quit. Then in the seventh inning we got a base runner and got some other things to happen.
“There are some real positives to build on. They know they are right there with [Madison County] and that’s where we want to be. Definitely they showed a lot of character. We’ll learn and we’ll get better as we go. If somebody had told me after 10 games we’d be 8-2, man I would have been happy with that. I’m pleased with what they’ve done, they’re doing a great job.”