CLAY CITY -- In the postseason, defense wins championships. In Monday's Clay City Softball Sectional opener between Clay City and Union, both teams played like champions through the first seven innings.
But the Eels were the first team to blink.
The Bulldogs Jenna Laxton singled in the top half of the eighth inning and came around to score on a throwing error as Union downed Clay City 1-0 in eight innings.
The miscue was the only mistake made by either team in a nearly perfectly pitched and played contest by both squads.
The eighth-ranked Bulldogs got three hit pitching from Laxton as well while Clay City's Indiana University-bound Kari Bettenbrock hurled a five hitter of her own.
Union had the best opportunities in regulation play with a leadoff single by Sasha Stanton leading to a sacrifice bunt by Laxton.
Stanton moved to third with no outs, but Kelsi Manuel popped up a bunt and Clay City catcher Amber Long made a diving catch for the second out. Bettenbrock then got Tesla Boyd to flyout to end the first threat.
The Eels got their own threat going in the fourth inning as Kendra Roe reached on an infield single and Bettenbrock followed with a base hit up the middle. However, Laxton struckout Loni Rhodes for the first out and after Cameron Gerber laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, Kylee Knox popped out to end the inning.
The game remained scoreless into the sixth inning before Union threatened once more when Manuel ripped a double to leftfield to open the inning. She was sacrificed to third with one out, but two more popups on bunt attempts ended the Bulldogs' chance at a score.
Union was finally successful in the eighth inning when Laxton singled to leadoff the inning.
Bettenbrock got the first out herself on a popup that came back to her. The next batter, Nikki Duckworth grounded to second base and was thrown out. Laxton however never quit running on the play, rounding second and heading to third base.
The relay throw from first base was wild and Laxton came home for the lone score of the contest.
Laxton set down the Eels in order in the bottom of the eighth inning to send Union into the sectional championship game versus the winner of the Shakamak/North Central game.
WP -- Laxton. LP -- Bettenbrock.
2B -- Manuel.