Team Effort Gives Clayton Back To Back State Title
The stage was set for Clayton to repeat as State Group 1 champions. They had run through the sectional tournament and broke open a victory over New Egypt in the semifinal. The Lady Clippers were set to face Weehawken for the New Jersey Group 1 final. Weehawken, the North 2 Group 1 champ, had knocked off North 1 Group 1 champion Kinnelon in the Group 1 semifinal. Clayton head coach turned to Junior pitcher Meadow Lake for the state title game. Lake had pitched a complete game shutout in last year’s state title win against Whippany Park. There seems to be no clear-cut number 1 pitcher for the Clippers. Juniors Allyson Koerner and Meadow Lake are both equally as dominant in their own right but this game Lake got the nod.
The game started off with a bang as Gianna Muhaw got things started with a leadoff triple in the top of the 1st. Brionna Berwick came up 2 batters later and drew a walk. Berwick then stole second to set up Allyson Koerner who came through with a huge 2 RBI single to right center field. That would be all of the scoring for Clayton though as Savanna McHale was able to catch Alana Gannon looking. Weehawken led off the home half with a triple of their own by Morgan Tomlinson. Savanna McHale would help herself by driving in Tomlinson 2 batters later with an RBI single. Meadow Lake would eventually get Weehawken to strand the bases loaded as she sat down Zoe Colin swinging. Both teams would go quietly in the 2nd inning as both pitchers picked up 2 K’s each.
Clayton scratched another run across in the top of the third as Allyson Koerner picked up her 3rd RBI of the day with an RBI double scoring Brionna Berwick. McHale would bear down on the mound and limit the damage done. The bottom of the 3rd inning is when Clayton pitcher Meadow Lake really got into a groove. Lake would get Weehawken to go 1-2-3 setting up her offense with great momentum in the top of the 4th. With runners on first and second with one out, senior superstar Brionna Berwick came up and put the dagger into the Weehawken team with a 2 run double that sucked the air and momentum away from the Indians’ dugout and fan section. Berwick made it a 5-1 ballgame in the top of the 4th and the score would remain as both McHale and Lake held both teams at bay. With Weehawken down to their last strike, Meadow Lake struck out Giovanna Notaro to claim Clayton’s second consecutive state title!
The Lady Clippers completed the repeat! Coach Joe Moore described Lake as a “bulldog” and a “gamer”. The next man up mentality and preparedness came in handy for Clayton today as Brionna Berwick had to exit the game due to the heat causing issues to flare up. Senior Abby McNichol stepped into the 2nd base spot and Allyson Koerner bumped over to shortstop. “Of course what do the softball gods do? First pitch ground ball and Gianna [Ettore] fields it and tossed it to Abby who was covering the bag. She practices that, she practiced that too”.
Clayton starter Meadow Lake was very emotional after the game. She had explained that this championship felt a little more real emotionally than last year’s. “The first one it’s like ‘Oh we’ve come out of nowhere and now we’re here’. This year we knew there would be a target on our back and all eyes would be on us along the way”. Lake also had high praise for her teammates on both sides of the ball. “I couldn’t do it without my team. I think I felt that this year more than before”. Coach Moore had more specifically given the center of praise to his outfielders today who hawked down a bunch of fly balls in the gaps all game.
Next year Clayton will return two outfielders from both state championship teams. Juniors MacKenzy Holler and Gianna Muhaw hold down the corners while senior, and Morgan State softball commit, Cassie White keeps center field on lockdown. Overall Clayton will return at least 6 of its 9 starters next season as the Lady Clippers await the seedings of this year’s last ever softball Tournament of Champions.
Chris Baker from NJ Athletics. You can reach Chris on Twitter (@cbake_51) or you can reach him by email (email@example.com). Be sure to check out NJ Athletics on Instagram (@NJAthletics) and on Twitter (@nj_athletics)