CLEARFIELD — March 5.
That date was circled on the calendars of any and all associated with Clearfield High School softball heading into the season, and for good reason.
The fifth was supposed to mark the Falcons’ 2018-19 season opener, an away contest against the Copper Hills Grizzlies.
It didn’t work out that way.
Rain, snow, a combination of the two; whatever the culprit, the game was canceled.
The delay of the Falcons’ season opener promised to be short, however, as Clearfield had a home contest scheduled against the Roy Royals for the following day on March 6.
Only, that game didn’t happen either.
“We had two games scheduled last week,” Clearfield head coach Karly Bates said. “We were supposed to play Copper Hills on Tuesday, Roy on Wednesday. Our field was great on Tuesday, but (Copper Hills’) field was way too wet still. On Wednesday, against Roy, our field was under water.”
The Falcons were finally able to kick off the season Tuesday afternoon at Clearfield High School, in a home contest against the Murray Spartans.
The wait proved well worth it.
Clearfield handily defeated Murray 10-0, in a game that was called after five innings.
Starting pitcher Jayci Finch pitched a complete game, which included nine strikeouts and just three Spartan hits.
Finch was no slouch in the batter's box either, and finished 2 for 2 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
As it was, the sophomore wasn’t the only Falcon to have a good day at the plate.
Kaycee Valencia (1 for 2 with an RBI double), Paige Bartholomew (1 for 3 with an two-run single), the list of Falcons who had successful outings in the opener was long.
“Overall, that was a really good game,” Bates said. “We definitely had some hiccups, that wasn’t our best, but it is exciting to not play our best ball and still run our whole team in the first game. We are excited.”
No player was more responsible for that excitement than Finch.
From the get-go, she was practically unhittable and she did so in every way imaginable. That included striking out the side, as she did in the second inning, or inducing ground out after ground out after ground out, like she did in the first.
“Jayci has definitely stepped into the role of go-to pitcher,” Bates said. “She is a great pitcher. She throws a lot of moving pitches. She knows how to sit batters down on strikeouts and how to let her defense help her out too. She is a great asset that we have, for sure.”
The only time Finch showed any vulnerability came in the fourth inning.
With Clearfield leading 3-0, and the Spartans having mustered just one hit in 10 at-bats, Murray head coach Danie McKay altered the team’s strategy.
With no outs and two girls on, not to mention sophomore Kaylee Lundeen at the plate, it seemed only a matter of time before the Spartans would plate some runs.
And yet, the Falcons had a stratagem of their own.
Instead of pitching to Lundeen, Finch intentionally walked her, loading the bases.
Back-to-back-to-back Finch strikeouts, however, ended the threat.Comment on this story
“I actually used to give (Kaylee Lundeen) catching lessons way back when she was this big,” Bates said, holding her hand two feet off the ground. “There are a couple girls on our team who play with her. We know she can hit the ball. In that situation, we figured we could take some of the pressure off our defense, load up the bases and then any base gets an out.”
“The chips fell our way, and it went from bases loaded with no outs to nobody scoring.”
From there, it was all Clearfield, and seven fifth-inning runs brought about a quick end to the long-awaited beginning of the season.
“We are excited,” Bates said. “We were excited to play.”