OTTAWA — Ottawa junior Cassie Claus has focused this season on attacking the first good strike she gets.
A take sign to allow teammate and potential winning run Bailey Simpson to steal her way into scoring position prevented Claus from swinging at the first offering she saw with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning Thursday against archrival La Salle-Peru.
So she hit the second one.
Claus, Ottawa's No. 6 hitter, smacked a sharp groundball single into center field, scoring Simpson from second and giving the Lady Pirates a 3-2, come-from-behind, eight-inning NIB 12 Conference triumph here at King Field.
"I was making fun of (Ottawa head coach Adam Lewis), because I've been working on hitting the first pitch all year, and he tells me to take it," Claus said with a laugh minutes after her walk-off RBI base hit on the first pitch after Simpson stole second base. "After that I was just looking for one to hit, not trying to think about it too much.
"(The pitch I swung at) was pretty solid, maybe a little inside, but it worked out."
The game-winning single was the second Ottawa run driven in on the day by Claus, whose 4-3 RBI groundout in the home half of the sixth finally drew the Lady Pirates (8-1 overall, 4-1 NIB 12) even with the Lady Cavaliers (7-5, 0-3). L-P came out of the gate swinging with two runs in the top of the first — impressive freshman Kaitlyn Gibson with a double and cleanup hitter Kara Turczyn with a sacrifice fly to drive in the runs.
"I think you just pick any sport, and if it's Ottawa and L-P it makes absolutely no difference where anyone is record-wise, everything goes out the window when it's Ottawa and L-P," said Lewis. "And you saw that. We were looking to get ahead early, and good for them, they jumped on pitches early in the count and spotted two on us.
"We didn't have the cleanest game defensively, but the biggest thing was nobody got down, nobody was pouting. We just tried to chip away at it, chip away, chip away."
Ottawa got the first run back in the third to draw to within 2-1. Jenna Nink led off with a single, stole second, took third on an L-P fielding error and came home during a first-and-third caught stealing at second base.
Starting and winning pitcher Sloan Gayan (8 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) helped her own cause by scoring the tying run in the sixth — singling to start the frame, moving to second on a Molly Harris single, advancing to third on a Simpson sacrifice bunt and coming home on Claus' aforementioned groundout to second.
Gayan, as she did after surrendering one earned and one unearned run in the top of the first, kept putting up goose eggs, working her only two 1-2-3 innings of the game in the seventh and eighth to set up OHS's game-winning, bottom-of-the-eighth rally. Simpson reached on a two-out error, stole second on the first pitch to Claus and scored on the second offering of the at-bat from tough-luck loser Taylor Donnell (7 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K).
Nink provided a three-single day for the Lady Pirates, with two-hit perfomances put in by Ottawa's Gayan and Harris as well as L-P's Gibson, Brooke Shirley and Josie Walter.
At King Field, Ottawa
Ottawa 3, La Salle-Peru 2 (8 inn.)
L-P (2) — Shirley cf 4-1-2-0, Donnell p 4-0-1-0, Gibson 3b 4-1-2-1, Ka. Turczyn 1b 3-0-0-1, Tomminello 2b 4-0-0-0, Stuart c 4-0-1-0, Corsolini dp 3-0-0-0, Walter rf 3-0-2-0, Fassino cf 0-0-0-0, Wright lf 0-0-0-0, Franklin cr 0-0-0-0, Glupczynski cr 0-0-0-0, Roda ph 3-0-0-0. Totals 32-2-8-2.
OTTAWA (3) — Nink 1b 4-1-3-0, Bowman cf 4-0-1-0, Gayan p 4-1-2-0, Harris 2b 4-0-2-0, Simpson c 3-1-0-0, C. Claus lf 4-0-1-2, A. Claus 3b 3-0-0-0, Roalson ss 3-0-0-0, Guerrero dp/ss 3-0-0-0, Miller rf 0-0-0-0. Totals 32-3-9-2.
L-P (7-5, 0-3) 200 000 00 — 2 8 3
Ottawa (8-1, 4-1) 001 001 01 — 3 9 2
LOB - L-P 7; Ottawa 7. 2B - Gibson. SAC - Simpson. SF - Ka. Turczyn. SB - Shirley, Nink, Simpson. CS - Bowman.
La Salle-Peru ip r er h bb k
Donnell (L, 5-5) 7.2 3 1 9 0 1
Gayan (W, 7-1) 8.0 2 1 8 0 7
Simpson scored the winning run with two outs.