Clay-Battelle blanks Magnolia in 10-inning walk-off win

BLACKSVILLE — It was the bottom of the 10th inning April 12, and the scoreboard at Clay-Battelle still read 0-0.

The Cee-Bees were battling Ohio Valley Athletic Conference foe Magnolia, which took C-B to 16 innings before handing them their first loss of the season, back in March.

The game had been a stalemate, a back-and-forth battle of infield pop-ups, easily fielded ground balls and foul tips.

“This was a pretty good pitcher we faced today, and a pretty good team,” C-B coach Butch Varner said. “But at the same time, we have to go into the batter’s box and be selective about what we hit.”

As the game carried on, C-B sophomore Alicia Keener stepped up to bat for the fourth time on the night, having failed to record a single hit during her previous trips to the plate. Freshman Ronda Petrucci was the lone Cee-Bee on base, after sending a screamer into the outfield during the previous at-bat.

Magnolia pitcher Ashley Tharp let her pitch go, and in a burst of energy Keener’s bat connected hard with the ball, sending it soaring into the sky. It was only the fifth hit Tharp would give up in the contest, but it would prove to be her last.

Petrucci rounded the final bases with a head of steam and crashed across home plate into her teammates’ arms, as the crowd roared. The Cee-Bees had secured yet another victory.

“I was just thinking ‘Hit the ball,’ ” Keener said of her RBI. “I was scared every inning we played that they were gonna get that run, so I knew we needed to get one before they did.”

According to Varner, such clutch moments and close affairs are learning experiences for his squad, building blocks upon which they can construct big-game experience.

“The big thing about our girls is this: They have to learn to enjoy these moments of competition. They have to look at them as opportunities and not step back from them,” he said. “At the end of the game there, the last two or three batters accepted the challenge, went out there and stepped up.”

As the Cee-Bees improve their record to 11-1 and their win streak to nine games, Varner sees a mountain his team must climb in learning to have faith in their abilities, especially in the face of adversity.

“The biggest challenge is for us as a team to believe we can compete with teams like this, and our girls have really bought into that,” Varner said. “We can take lessons in perseverance and playing in the moment.”

Junior Caitlyn Kassay earned the win from the mound for the Cee-Bees, striking out 16 batters in 34 at-bats, giving up just one walk and three hits with no runs scored.

Abbey Ammons, Kassay, Keener, Pretucci and Ashley Weber each nabbed one hit for a total of five for C-B.

The Cee-Bees will return to action today, as they host South Harrison. The opening pitch is set for 5 p.m.

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