Outsiders did not expect much from Clover before the season. It's a good thing those folks don't take the field because the Blue Eagles are now one of eight teams left standing in the 5A playoffs.
"The fat's been trimmed now," Clover coach Shea Hall said.
Kayla Ogle pitched a perfect game into the seventh inning, and Taylor and Taylor supplied the offense to lift Clover to a 4-0 win over the Dorman Cavaliers and the District IV championship Wednesday night in Clover.
"She gives us a chance to win every ballgame," Hall said of her star pitcher. "We're going to keep riding her. We just hope we can give her a little run support."
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The Blue Eagles will travel to Boiling Springs in the first round of the Upper State playoffs Friday night.
"The girls are going to really have to stay locked in to just hearing each other on the field," Hall said. "Their crowd can be a factor, but that's exciting too."
The Bulldogs won their previous matchup 2-1 in an early-season tournament at Crescent.
"I feel like we know what we're going into there so we can better prepare ourselves," Ogle said.
Clover had three shutouts in the district playoffs.
The Blue Eagles did not waste any time jumping in front Wednesday. Three straight one-out hits in the first inning made it 1-0. Taylor Stewart's single to centerfield plated Taylor Morneault just ahead of the throw home. It was deja vu in the fifth when Morneault singled and Stewart again drove her in with a two-out base hit to left-center.
The Blue Eagles added two insurance runs in the sixth when Morneault's two-out bases loaded base hit to center scored Lilly Wallace and Ogle.
Morneault was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Stewart was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
"She's (Morneault) up there now and that softball probably looks like a cantaloupe or a watermelon as opposed to a golf ball," Hall said. "Taylor and Taylor were both clutch tonight."
With two outs in the Dorman fifth, right-fielder Dakota Peters temporarily preserved Ogle's perfect game by robbing Celeste Simpson of a base hit and throwing her out at first base from right field. Ogle was still perfect when Jack Bush led off the seventh with a single to left. The Cavaliers would get a two-out double but Ogle stranded the two runners for the complete game two-hit shutout. She had eight strikeouts and no walks.
"I'm pretty mad at myself right now," Ogle said.
Peters' assist to end the fifth got the Blue Eagles fired up and they added a run in the bottom half to double their lead and provide some breathing room for Ogle.
The key moment came early when Clover jumped ahead in the first and put the pressure on the visitors who needed two wins to continue their season.
Ogle was nearly flawless and Morneault was 3-for-4. Morneault and Stewart drove in all four runs. Kaitie Robinson and Lilly Wallace were both 2-for-3.
"I want some of what she is eating for breakfast," Ogle said of Morneault. "And Taylor (Stewart) behind the plate and at the plate is rockin' and rollin.'"