CLAY CITY -- The Clay City Eels were good for a pair of rallies in Thursday's softball sectional championship, one of them evened the score, the second came up just short in a 5-4 loss.
The win by Shakamak sends them into the Barr-Reeve Regional where they will face the winner between Loogootee and North Daviess who square off for the sectional championship also at Barr-Reeve.
For the Eels, the ending is bittersweet.
After starting off slow this season, Clay City put together a strong run at the end of the year to reach the sectional championship.
In the title game, the Eels climbed on top first by plating a run in the second inning. Emily Reed blooped a one out single into rightfield before she was forced out at second base on a Kristin Tyler grounder. Tyler however would move on to second on a passed ball and Kayla Baumgartner sent a grounder to third base, the throw sailed high to first. Tyler scored on the play and the Eels had a 1-0 lead.
Shakamak however would respond the next inning with three runs that were keyed by some control problems by Loni Rhodes on the mound.
Brooke Collins and Alecia Gambill each reached base via walk and both came home when Joanna Strahla doubled. Sarah Betts reached base on a throwing error and moved to third and scored on a Chelsea Baker flyout to make the score 3-1.
The Eels proved resilient though as Cameron Gerber led off the Clay City half of the inning with a solid single and Chelsee Gerber slapped an infield single. Kendra Roe bunted into a fielder's choice.
Chelsee Gerber stole third to move into scoring position with Roe at second and Rhodes loaded the bases when she drew a walk. Angie Camp then doubled home a pair of runs to knot the score at 3-all.
"Angie (Camp) has been really hot," commented coach Staci Murphy of her catcher. "It's been coming out lately and Cameron (Gerber) has really done well."
Shakamak would threaten in the fourth and fifth innings, but Rhodes and the Eels were able to get out of jams without allowing any runs. The Lakers stranded five runners in the two innings.
They would eventually take advantage in the sixth inning as Megan Netherlain led off the inning with a hit to leftfield that turned into a double and Brooke Collins reached base on a walk. The Eels looked like they might escape unscathed once again as Rhodes got a popout and a fielder's choice to put two outs on the board, but Betts would come through with a single to leftfield that plated two runs and put the Lakers ahead once more, 5-3.
The Eels would put together one more rally when Baumgartner led off the seventh inning with a single to right and moved to second on a stolen base. After a groundout gave the Lakers the first out, Cameron Gerber smacked another single, this one to left that scored Baumgartner. The RBI single closed the gap to 5-4.
Chelsee Gerber grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out, bringing up pinch hitter Kylee Knox.
Knox would bring the Eels' fans to their feet when she served a single into rightfield to put the tying run on second base. But the Eels would come up just short as Shakamak's Heather Gilbert got Rhodes to groundout to her to end the game.
"We've come a long way this year," said Murphy after the game. "We kept improving every game, it just wasn't meant for us to win, but throughout I've been pleased with the heart and determination (in the team). We never gave up."
The Eels wrap up their season at 9-10 overall.
Clay City Softbll Sectional
At Clay City
2B -- CC (Camp 2), SH (Strahla, Netherlain).