Entering last Thursday night's game against the Pilot Grove Lady Tigers, California High School softball had been battling the highs and lows of their 2021 season. They had just come off a high in defeating the Knob Noster Lady Panthers 14-11 on Monday night.
Thursday was also a special night for the Lady Pintos, as it was senior night. But there was one senior who stole the show — senior pitcher and infielder Ellie Clay took the mound for the Lady Pintos and got into a rhythm that just couldn't be stopped as the Lady Pintos notched a 9-1 victory.
After striking out the side in the first inning, Clay and the Lady Pintos rallied for four runs in the first inning off of Pilot Grove starting pitcher Marci Lammers. When the Lady Pintos turned the ball over to Clay, she continued her superb pitching performance by striking out her first ten batters.
Thanks to Clay, the Lady Pintos held the Lady Tigers scoreless for the first five innings.
Up 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Lady Pintos head coach Steven Stock took Clay out of the game after she'd earned a career-high 14 strikeouts. Clay also went three for four in batting as the Lady Pintos hit the ball well throughout the game, en route to the 9-1 final score.
With their victory against Pilot Grove, California's record improved to 7-8 with the Versailles/California Turf War Tournament on the horizon.
"We just came in and Ellie got a little velocity and got to them early. We hit the ball very well and got up 4-0 early," Stock said. "I think more than anything, we were just relaxed. When you can be relaxed playing this game, the game becomes a lot easier. It was a great night for senior night and our seniors came in and got a nice win. So it was a good night for the Lady Pintos."
Ellie Clay's pitching stole the spotlight on Thursday night. That was no surprise to Stock, as Clay has asserted herself as one of the premier pitchers in the Tri-County Conference.
"When you get an athlete like her on the mound, she just throws the ball over the plate and her velocity is going to get a lot of kids out," Stock said. "It makes it easy for everybody. She puts it in the strike zone and some people are going to struggle and everyone else follows that lead. The relaxation we get from here makes this game a lot easier."
A few days later, Ellie Clay made Lady Pintos history. In her first two games of the Versailles/California Turf War Tournament, Clay threw back-to-back no-hitters against Osage and Marshall.
After going 2-1 in the Versailles/California Tournament, California's record is back to .500 at 9-9. The Lady Pintos' late season ride continues with two exciting conference rivalry games this week — California traveled to Blair Oaks Tuesday and returns home for a clash against Boonville on Thursday.