Natalie Lay took a hard-hit ground ball off her arm in the first but remained in the game and played flawless ball the rest of the way.
Kendall Anderson made an air-borne catch in center in the fourth. She shook off a rough landing to play a key role later.
Alexis Doan fielded then bobbled a simple grounder then threw out the batter in the seventh after making an error on the previous batter.
And finally Lindsey Carter dove on gravel and into a chain-link fence to catch a foul pop in the seventh.
Those plays against Eaton in Saturday’s Division II Southwest District championship game at Centerville High School may seem insignificant standing alone.
But together they continued a trend that has been the hallmark by which Clinton-Massie softball has been built over the years.
“We pretty much go all out,” CM coach Anthony Lauer said of his squad, a statement that could be made about any of Lauer’s teams in recent memory. “The hustle was absolutely unbelievable. Those girls going above and beyond are because they want to go to the next game. You’re not going to see too many girls dive into the fence on gravel toward a block dugout for a foul ball.”
The Lady Falcons will face Monroe 5 p.m. Wednesday at Mason High School in a Region 8 semifinal game. Hebron Lakewood will play Greenville 2 p.m. Wednesday in the first game.
The Region 8 championship game is set for Noon Saturday and pits the winners of those two Wednesday games. A berth in the OHSAA fastpitch softball Division II Final Four is on the line.
“The biggest thing, at this point in the season, when you’ve been going at it so long is, for us, maintaining our focus and having good practices,” said Lauer. “Right now there’s a lot going on at school but it’s tournament time and teams should be playing their best softball. Losing that focus on one play or two plays can be costly.”
But the Lady Falcons kept their focus on each of the aforementioned plays. They didn’t get rattled. They didn’t let one mistake lead to two.
Doan’s play, though the least spectacular of the group, may have been the most important.
It was Doan’s error that gave Eaton life in the seventh. After a clean hit, Doan fielded the next batter’s ground ball and committed a throwing error. Now with two Golden Eagles on base, a 4-0 lead didn’t seem as safe.
The next batter – as if on cue to truly test Doan’s mettle – hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Doan fielded this one cleanly and threw to first for the initial out of the final inning. A misplay there and Massie might be talking about next season.
“Was that play before still with her? You bet,” Lauer said. “But she stayed with that ball, bobbled it and got the out. Very easily the game could have gotten in her head.”
Instead, the Lady Falcons as a team fed off Doan’s simple play. Carter made her gravel-surfing catch on the next hitter and pitcher Taylor Florea dominated the final batter with a strikeout.
“When their first two got on (in the seventh) I was like ‘Let’s see how we respond’,” said Lauer, who has led Massie to three straight regional tournaments. “If this would have been our first or second year … I don’t know. I think the pressure might have got to us. But with Taylor and Hailey (Clayborn) their leadership helps a lot.
“My girls expect to be here. Everything is where it needs to be at this point in the season.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email email@example.com or on Twitter @wnjsports