CLAY CITY -- The Clay City Eels and the North Central Thunderbirds nearly matched each other hit for hit Wednesday night in the semifinal game of the Clay City Class A softball sectional.
But the game was decided on errors.
North Central took advantage of five Clay City errors to score a 7-4 victory and a berth in the sectional championship game. The game is schedule for 6 p.m. Thursday, but the second semifinal contest on Wednesday was halted due to lightning.
"We were ready for them and we hit the ball good. A couple of errors killed us. That was the difference in the game," Clay City Coach Amy Hammond said.
North Central had a slight 9-8 advantage in hits. Clay City was led by Lacey Brown's 4-for-4 performance that included a two-run double, and three RBI in her final high school game. Kari Bettenbrock had two hits and scored two runs for the Eels, Cameron Gerber and Lindsey Moss each contributed a single.
Clay took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Gerber, who reached base on an error, scored on a single by Brown. North Central countered with two runs and the score stood 2-1 going into the third inning.
Bettenbrock led off the third with a double and moved to third on
Brown's single single of the game. Jenna Koehler received a two-out walk to load the bases and Loni Rhodes was hit by a pitch that brought in Bettenbrock with the tying run.
North Central took a 3-2 lead into the fourth inning, but Clay City
charged to a 4-3 lead in the fourth when Brown ripped a double into the right-center field gap to score Bettenbrock and Angela Ewer.
North Central tied the score 4-4 in the bottom of the fourth.
But the momentum turned completely in North Central's favor in the fifth inning on a passed ball and an error that was magnified by some alert base running.
Sierra Taft and Jessi Higginbottom led off North Central's fifth with singles. Both advanced a base on Ashleigh Rogers' grounder to the right side. Clay City's Loni Rhodes was one out away from getting out of the jam.
As the ball hit the backstop, Taft raced down the third base line and Higginbottom took off from second base. Taft crossed home plate ahead of Thatcher's throw to Rhodes, who was covering home.
But nobody backed up the play at the plate. North Central's
Higginbottom never stopped at third, but scored without a play.
"I think that was the break in the game. Not until that point did I
think we were going to win," North Central Coach Nancy Liston said.
That put North Central up 6-4. "That took the momentum down. It was down hill after that," Hammond said.
Clay City closed the season with a 10-10 record.
Bettenbrock, Rhodes (5) and Thatcher; Haag and Gentry. W -- Haag. L -- Rhodes. LOB -- CC 8, NC 7. 2B -- Brown, Austin, Cox.
Next game: North Central (20-5) will play the winner of the
Shakamak-Linton game on Thursday, weather permitting.