Jefferson outhits Gators

The Jefferson fastpitch team stayed undefeated and on top of the South Puget Sound League, South Division with a 7-5 win over second-place Decatur on Monday.

“Both teams were excited and both teams realized the importance of the game,” said Jefferson coach Kevin Hanis. “It’s two Federal Way schools battling for first place — it’s exciting. We had a few more breaks go our way. I’m happy to get out of here with the win. We’re on top of the pile now and everyone is gunning for us.”

The Raiders (9-0) scored four runs in the top of the fourth inning, added three more in the top of the fifth, then held Decatur (7-2) scoreless in the last two innings.

“TJ is a well-hitting club,” Decatur coach Peter Waid said. “They should go a long ways this year.”

Decatur took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when leadoff batter Bre Klasen singled, then scored when Kelly Claar hit a double.

It looked as if it would be a low-scoring game as both teams played solid defense behind great pitching by Decatur’s Claar and Jefferson’s Natasha Lindsey.

“We knew we had to come out to win and if we beat them we’d have the momentum to go undefeated the rest of the season,” Lindsey said. “All year we’ve been playing as a team — we come out and back each other up and just be there for each other.”

In the top of the fourth inning, Jefferson’s Lindsey Radford scored from third base when Rachel Guerrero singled to left field. With Jessica Allen on third and Guerrero on second, Ashley Osman hit a bases-clearing triple down the right field line to pick up 2 RBIs. Jamie Salmon followed with a bloop single to right field that scored Osman and gave Jefferson a 4-1 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, Decatur responded. Claar and Aubrey McCarney both singled, then Jamie Martello was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Alexis Price, who was hitless so far this season, came up clutch with a 3-RBI triple down the right field line. Price scored on a bad throw to third base. That gave Decatur a 5-4 lead at the end of the fourth inning, but it didn’t last.

Jefferson came right back in the fifth inning.

“The strength of this team is that they’ve been there, seen it and done it,” Hanis said of his team’s experience. “When they see adversity, they’re able to come back. We have good, solid hitters who can do that.”

Chelsea Hunt singled, then stole second and third bases. Erin Johnson followed with an RBI single, then she stole second and third base. Tawny Guthrie earned a walk, then pinch runner Jessica Allen stole second base.

Guerrero and Osman both followed with RBI singles as Jefferson built a 7-5 lead that would hold for the rest of the game.

“You can have as many hits as you want, but it doesn’t help you if they don’t come at the right time,” Hanis said.

Decatur loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

“They played up to a high level,” Decatur coach Pete Waid said of his team. “They fought hard and played their hearts out. TJ has a good team. The bottom of our order isn’t producing for us. Sometimes when you need it, it’s not there. But I think we’ll make the playoffs.”

Lindsey improved her record to 5-0 in the SPSL. Claar dropped to 5-2.

Jefferson hasn’t had to depend on Lindsey for all its wins. Both Osman and Val Crow are 2-0 when pitching.

By striking out eight Jefferson batters, Decatur’s Claar tied the school record for most strike outs in a season. The record of 90 was set by Waid’s daughter in 1996. Claar still has seven games to go to improve on her current record.

Claar is averaging 10.2 strike outs per game. At the plate, Claar is batting over .500 as Decatur’s leading batter.

“Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs,” Claar said. “We have a bet with Pete, if we don’t make state we’ll do six hours of community service around campus. If we do make state, we get to shave his head, but there’s not much left up there.”

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