Lafayette softball bashes Bell in regional final

Lafayette senior Stacy McClelland hits a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth as the Hornets won the regional championship. (Photo courtesy of Jack Howdeshell).

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:22 p.m.

MAYO — With two outs and two runners on base in the bottom of the fifth inning, Lafayette's Stacy McClelland said she got a perfect pitch, a waist-high fastball down the middle.

The power-hitting lefty didn't miss it and crushed the ball over the center-field fence to clinch Lafayette's 11-0 five-inning win over Bell in Tuesday night's Class 1A, Region 3 final.

The blast, which was McClelland's seventh home run of the spring now gives her an area-leading total of 61 RBIs this season and also sends the Hornets (23-4) to the state semifinals in Clermont for the second time in three years.

"I just went up there and relaxed and just told myself I am going to wait on a good pitch and just hit it and swing hard," said McClelland, an Indian River State College signee. "It felt great."

As soon as the ball cleared the fence, it ignited a celebration for the Hornets, who will now face fellow area team Union County, 8-2 winners over Baldwin. The Hornets and Tigers, who have not played each other this season, will meet in Monday's Class 1A state semifinals at 5 p.m. at The National Training Center in Clermont.

"I am very excited we get to go to state again," said winning pitcher Lindsay O'Steen, who gave up just one hit and struck out seven batters. "It feels so good because we have worked so hard and all the hard work has been paying off."

McClelland finished with three hits, scored twice and drove in four runs, while O'Steen helped herself out with two hits, two RBIs and a run scored. Lydia Land also collected three hits, scored twice and drove in a run as part of Lafayette's 12-hit attack.

Lafayette, FHSAA Class 2A state runners-up in 2010, failed to score in the first inning despite loading the bases with no outs against Bulldogs pitcher Taylor Lovelace (11-9). The Hornets made up for it by opening the scoring with three runs in the third inning on two hits and aided by two of Bell's four errors on the night as they sent eight hitters to the plate. In the following inning, Lafayette sent nine hitters to the plate and scored five times. Run-scoring doubles by McClelland, O'Steen and Kaleigh Law and an RBI single from Kali Sharpe highlighted the frame.

It also marked the third straight time that Lafayette has thumped Bell (11-14) this season (14-0, 11-4). The Bulldogs, who clinched their first district title since 2003, played in their first regional final since 2002.

"We exceeded expectations this year because I thought at the beginning of the year if we could get to the district championship it would be good," said Bell coach David Halter, who guided the Bulldogs to four state semifinal appearances in the mid-to-late 1990s. "We did that and managed to pull it off.

"They are just better than us right now, they are the standard and we have to close that gap."

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