Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- The Clay City Eels opened postseason play with a bang on Monday night, scoring four times in the first inning and cruising to a 7-2 victory at home against White River Valley to advance to this evening's semifinal against Union (Dugger).
Defensive mistakes have proved to be costly this season for a youthful Wolverines squad featuring six freshmen in the starting lineup. In Monday's postseason skirmish, WRV committed four miscues in the first inning, which helped Clay City take early control.
Allie Miller drew a one-out walk for the Eels and then raced home on a ringing double by Madison Booe. Shelby Targett stepped to the plate and started a big night by blasting another RBI double, the first of four hits by the senior pitcher.
Chloe Kittle stepped in as a courtesy runner for Targett and came around to score on a grounder by Karen Treadway. The throw to first was wide for an error and Kittle came in to score the third run of the inning. WRV's pitcher, freshman Sydney Kail, got the second out , but a grounder by Michaela Riggs resulted in another error as the throw to third to get Treadway got past Jasmine May at third and the Eels took a 4-0 lead.
"I told the girls, you take out that first inning and we played pretty well," WRV coach Ruan Fougerousse said. "We had some nerves there in the first inning, but, you've got to give Clay City credit, they hit the ball the first couple of innings, then we started doing things a little better pitching and forcing them to hit the change-up."
The Eels added two more runs in the second inning as Alexa Souder walked and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Shaya Stevenson. Souder moved to third on a stolen base and came in on a one-out double by Booe.
Targett added her second hit of the game, a base-hit to move Booe to third. Kittle, courtesy running for Targett, stole second and the throw by WRV catcher, Taylor Kail was late as Booe raced home for a 6-0 Clay City advantage.
The Wolverines mounted their lone rally in the third inning as Tayler Kail and May drew two-out walks and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch by Targett. Alicia Tally then came through with the biggest hit of the night for WRV, a two-run single to get her team within 6-2.
From there however, both pitcher settled in and were mostly in control as each squad's defense played error-free. Targett didn't allow a hit over the final four innings, striking out five over that time.
"She walked a couple and gave up a couple of runs in that one inning, but she struck out 10 and that's a pretty good day," Clay City coach Roger Rhodes said of Targett's effort in the circle. "Softball games are pretty short so any time you can get a team down early, it gives you more confidence," Rhodes said.
Kail also had great success over the final innings, retiring the Eels 1-2-3 in the third, fourth and sixth innings and allowing just one more run after the second frame. However, WRV wasn't able to mount another offensive threat as Clay City advanced to the next round.
Afterwards, Fougerousse was pleased with how her team played despite the loss. Consider that Clay City posted a 20-6 win over WRV on April 19 and Monday's sectional result is a step in the right direction for a team that graduates just two players in Tayler Kail and Alicia Tally.
"That's the way we've been playing the last couple of weeks," Fougerousse said. "We've been playing a lot better at the end of the season."
Class A Clay City Sectional
2B -- CC (Booe 2, Targett 1). SB -- CC (Souder).