Times Sports Editor
Two losses early in the year seem to have motivated Clay City into hitting its softball stride during April.
The Eels got perhaps the best pitching performance of the season from Shelby Targett on the way to a 2-0 win over Class A No. 9 ranked North Central on Monday evening.
Targett allowed just a slap single from Sammy Barbee in the fourth inning and she struck out 14 batters while allowing no walks in the victory.
"That's the best she's thrown all year," said coach Roger Rhodes. "She was changing speeds and hitting her spots. When she hits her spots she's tough to hit."
North Central freshman Adara Crooks was nearly as tough during the first five innings, striking out nine Clay City batters and allowing only two hits.
"She did a good job and held us scoreless for awhile," said Rhodes of the T-Birds' hurler. "But we left too many runners on. We had one (baserunner) almost every inning."
The Eels were unable to capitalize until the sixth inning when Tasha Collenbaugh led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a line single up the middle.
Kayla Baumgartner drew a walk to set up Angie Camp, who worked the count to 3-0 against Crooks.
Surprisingly, Camp took a bit rip at the next pitch, which she missed, but then came through with an RBI single to rightfield that brought home Collenbaugh for the game's first tally.
"Angie kind of gave me a grey hair there," said Rhodes about the 3-0 swing on a potential ball four pitch. "But she's got the green light, she can play."
The RBI single spelled the end for Crooks as Katie Brown came in in relief to try and put out the fire for North Central.
With no outs and runners on second and third base, Emily Reed struckout, but North Central's catcher dropped the third strike as the senior short stop reached safely.
With the bases loaded, Meranda Jackson attempted to lay down a bunt, but popped it out to the catcher on a squeeze play.
The T-Birds catcher made the catch and was able to double off Baumgartner at third base.
Targett wouldn't let North Central off the hook so easily, smacking an RBI single to give Clay City an insurance run heading to the seventh inning.
"Our seniors came through for us," said Rhodes. "Angie's hit was big and Tasha led us off with a hit and Kayla was patient at the plate to get on base."
Targett got Barbee and Megan Cox to groundout for the first two outs. Jackie Porter reached on the Eels' lone error of the game, but Targett got Sienna Taft on strikes for the game's final out.
"This is a big conference win for us," commented Rhodes. "We came in ready to play. (North Central) is a good team, ranked pretty high."
The win improves the Eels to 1-1 in the Tri-River Conference and 7-2 overall while North Central falls to 9-2 on the season. Clay City hosts Linton this evening at 4:30 p.m.
At Clay City