BEREA – With their back against the wall, the Clay County Tigers rallied late in the 7thinning to defeat Wolfe County 3-0. Powered by the dominant effort of Brianda Owens 16-strikeout game, the Tigers were able to ward off Wolfe County long enough to finally push across three runs in the 7thinning to capture the victory. The win pushed Clay to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
Coach Jamie Gilbert was ecstatic after the win, but knew his team was built for the moment after a tough day of pushing across runs. “I told the girls we’re good because they (Wolfe) hadn’t scored either,” he said. “However, they knew someone had to step up and wait on a pitch to drive and stop forcing swings. We were robbed on a few solid hits, and we had some really good at bats. Kimberlyn (Mills) broke their pitchers will with a very hard-fought at bat.”
The Tigers would get a hit here, a hit there, a walk here, or a bunt there to scrounge up baserunners. Clay would have four innings with two runners on, leaving them stranded. Shelby Phillips would reach 3rdbase in the 3rdinning with 1 out, as Clay still couldn’t bring her home.
With frustration mounting for the Tigers offensively, defensive effort was never in question. The Tigers only made a single error, while Owens did a tremendous job of keeping Wolfe County hitters at bay. At one point, Owens had struck out five straight Wolfe County hitters. “Brianda was two strikeouts short of a school record,” said Coach Gilbert. “She pitched a fantastic game, and also only allowed three hits.”
With high tension in the stands and on the field, Clay County would finally mount their offensive efforts up in the 7thinning as Emma Hurd would drill a 1-out single to left field. The offense was contagious, as Shelby Phillips would double on a deep fly ball to center field, scoring Hurd from first base.
After deflating the Wolfe County dugout and defense, Maddie Frazier drove the final nail in the coffin. Frazier would crush a deep two-run homerun over the left field wall to score Phillips, smiling vibrantly as she rounded third base while Coach Jamie Gilbert celebrated beside her. Allie Phillips would collect her second single of the day before the third and final out to end the rally.
Owens would lead off the bottom of the 7thwith two more strikeouts, followed by an infield pop-fly that she would catch to give a storybook ending to one of the most dominant pitching efforts that many Clay fans had ever seen.
“That 7thinning had been brewing all day,” said Gilbert. “I knew we had Finley, Hurd, and Shelby coming up. I thought Ellie had reached safely but they called her out on a controversial call. Hurd gave us her single, and they immediately expected Shelby to bunt. We called for a fake bunt, and Phillips did it to perfection, scoring Emma while setting up Maddie for the final two runs. I knew we had it, because Brianda wasn’t going to let them score with the way she was pitching.”
Batting – Emma Hurd (1-4); Shelby Phillips (2-4); Maddie Frazier (1-3); Kimberlyn Mills (1-3); Allie Phillips (2-3); Ellie Finley (1-3). Pitching – Brianda Owens (W) 7.0 IP, 3 hits, 16 K’s.