LAGRANGE — Keystone freshman Lauren Shaw has someone new to add to her Christmas card list this year. She might sign the card, “Thanks for the perfect ending.”
As the Wildcats were on the way to a dominating 10-0 win over Clearview in a Patriot Athletic Conference crossover game, Shaw had her first career perfect game preserved by an umpire who stepped in front of a ball hit by Clearview’s Sarah Kaya with two outs in the fourth inning. The ball had rolled past Keystone first basemen Carleigh Herrington and was heading down the right-field line for what would have been the Clippers’ first hit. Instead, the ball careened off the left shin of the umpire and right to second basemen Morgan McNulty, who flipped it to Herrington for the third out of the inning.
The umpires originally ruled it a dead ball and awarded Kaya first base, but after consulting the rule book properly decided that because the ball has already passed Herrington there was no umpire’s interference. It was still a live ball and Kaya was out at first.
That was all the help Shaw needed as she overpowered Clearview, striking out 10 and not allowing a ball out of the infield.
“My change-up and my curveball were working for me today,” said Shaw, who struck out four of the first five Clearview hitters. “We knew they were undefeated in the conference and we had to come out early and show them who’s the boss.”
Keystone (18-2, 10-0) had little trouble with Kaya, the Clippers’ star pitcher. The Wildcats pounded out 12 hits and got the leadoff hitter to reach and score in each of the first four innings.
“We knew coming into the game what a great pitcher Sarah is, but our girls did a terrific job of making adjustments and sticking to the gameplan and putting the ball in play,” Keystone coach Jim Piazza said. “I told the team we were facing a state-tournament caliber pitcher today, so they had to be patient and swing at their pitches. Just because it is a strike does not mean we have to swing at it.”
Shortstop Summer Constable got Keystone going in the first inning by stealing second and third base after leading off the inning with a walk. She finished the day with three stolen bases to go along with two hits and three runs scored.
The first three hitters in the Keystone batting order went 7-for-10.
“Our goal is to score first and put the pressure on the other team,” Constable said.
Keystone added another run in the second and third innings before its six-run fourth broke the game open. McNulty had the big hit in the fourth with single that scored Constable and Paige Hartley. McNulty drove in four runs and has 18 RBIs on the season.
Clearview (9-5, 7-1) suffered its first conference loss. The Clippers have now lost three of their last four games.
“Keystone is always a good team and they always play an aggressive style of softball,” Clearview coach Denny Myers said. “We just weren’t prepared for that aggressiveness, and as the coach, I will take the blame for that.”
Keystone ended last week on a high note, sweeping three games in the Prebis Memorial Classic, but the Wildcats, who are undefeated in the state this season, didn’t spend the rainy days earlier this week resting on its laurels. Instead, they went back and practiced fundamentals like it was the first week of tryouts.
“We had three good practices this week where we were able to zero in on fundamentals that we may have started to take for granted, and those were the little things that helped us today,” Constable said.
Although Keystone is often thought of as a power hitting team, it played small ball to perfection Thursday. Six of the Wildcat’s 12 hits never left the infield. They stole six bases, and on two occasions, had runners advance from first to third on infield grounders.
“Our approach is to be aggressive and use our speed,” Piazza said. “We know sometimes we’re going to get thrown out on the bases and it’s going to make us look silly but it lets other teams know they can’t fall asleep. They have to be aware or we will try to steal a run anyway we can.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.