SHEFFIELD TWP. — The recipe for winning playoff softball isn’t especially complicated.
Begin with a prime cut of outstanding pitching. Add in a heaping helping of timely hitting and garnish with solid fundamentals. And then add a light drizzle of pure Lorain Country spring rain for good measure.
On Friday afternoon, the Clearview Clippers prepared a five-star feast in the Division II sectional final, besting the visiting Firelands Falcons 10-0 in a five-inning, mercy rule-shortened game.
The victory avenged the 2013 district loss Clearview suffered to Firelands in a game disrupted by severe weather and featuring an epic Falcons comeback.
This year, Firelands (10-14) ran smack into a buzzsaw named Sarah Kaya. The senior starter threw a one-hitter with six strikeouts. The only baserunner was Firelands pitcher Emma Ranney, who singled to center in the fourth to end Kaya’s bid for a perfect game.
“I think we all had high emotions, high adrenaline going into this game,” Kaya said. “This was a big game for us, this rematch from last year’s districts, and we didn’t want the season to end here. I think our emotions were a big motivator today.”
Kaya had plenty of support as her fellow Clippers jumped at every opportunity to situation hit, take an extra base and exploit any Falcons mistake.
“We tried to be aggressive on them,” Clearview coach Denny Myers said. “We know that Firelands is a very good team, we’ve played them obviously last year and earlier this season, so we just wanted to make sure that we took advantage of every opportunity to score.”
If the Clippers (15-8) were catlike in their finesse at seizing opportunities, then the defensive tigress was third baseman Chelsea Kincer, who pounced on every attempted Falcons bunt and assisted on one-third of the outs registered in the field while shutting down the left side.
“We knew they were going to come out strong with the bunt so I had to be ready,” Kincer said. “Sometimes being up that close it gets nerve-wracking, but that’s why I have the mask.”
Ranney pitched well during the loss and looked better than her line of 10 runs — seven earned — on 10 hits given up. While Ranney walked four, most of her miscues were compounded by Falcons errors, both physical and mental.
“Emma battled, she did a nice job, but they had some nice hits and we didn’t support her defensively as well as we should have,” Firelands coach Phil Rawlings said.
Kaya helped her cause with a pair of hits and an RBI, and Sarah Stambol matched the performance. Catcher Elizabeth Janis led the charge with a 3-for-3 day and two RBIs. All in all, eight of the 10 Clippers who hit reached base at least once.
“I was just really focused today, I was just ready to hit,” Janis said. “I think from what happened last year we just came in a lot more intense to face them again. With Senior Night, I think we were all focused on if we lost, it would be one of the last games, so everyone contributed and brought up the intensity.”
Clearview saved its outburst for the home half of the rainy fifth inning, putting up the six runs needed to turn a 4-0 lead into a mercy-rule victory, all with ghosts of last year’s Clippers collapse lurking in the clouds.
“What we did at the end there was perfect, because I thought, ‘Oh, here we go again,’” Myers said. “I was probably gonna push to stay on the field as long as we could. Because last year we had a lot of people say ‘You shouldn’t have left.’ Last year was a safety thing and if it had gotten that bad (today) we’d have done the same thing.”
Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.