COLUMBIA STATION — Columbia began Friday trailing Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division leader Clearview by 1½ games and knowing it had to sweep the two-game weekend series with the Clippers to repeat as conference champions.
Round one goes to the Raiders.
Columbia pitcher Kailey Minarchick had 12 strikeouts and keyed a three-run fifth inning with a leadoff single to lead the Raiders to a 5-1 win.
Clearview (13-6, 11-2) must win the rematch on its home field this morning to retain the division lead.
Before Minarchick’s single, the Raiders (16-6, 10-2) had gone nine innings without a hit dating back to Thursday when they were no-hit by Keystone. When the bats finally woke up, Columbia wasted little time putting them to use.
First baseman Amanda Sedlock followed Minarchick’s single with one of her own, advancing courtesy runner Halley Campbell to second. The Raiders then executed a double steal to put both runners in scoring position.
Columbia broke open the 0-0 game by scoring three runs without another ball leaving the infield. Campbell and Sedlock scored on wild pitches by Clearview’s Sarah Kaya.
Shelby Friedel walked, moved around the bases on a wild pitch and passed ball and scored on a Nicole Jenny grounder to short to make the score 3-0.
“We’re in the midst of a tough stretch of games but we came in with a tough mentality and we took care of business,” Sedlock said. “We knew if we didn’t win today we don’t win conference. This is my senior year and every year that’s one of my top goals, so there’s no describing how important this game was for me.”
For the first four innings it was an old-fashioned pitchers duel between Kaya, who surpassed the 1,000-strikeout mark earlier in the week, and Minarchick, who improved to 12-3. Only two of the five runs Kaya allowed were earned.
Minarchick battled Kaya pitch-for-pitch, not allowing the Clippers to get two runners on base in the same inning until the sixth when they scored their lone run, which was also unearned.
“I knew this was going to be a close game because I know how good Sarah is,” Minarchick said. “I felt like it would be a battle of the pitchers and it just came down to what team did what and when we had the chance we took advantage.”
Columbia coach Ken Lugo also knew runs would be hard to come by against Kaya, who came into the game with a 0.86 ERA in league play.
“Once Sarah gets locked in it’s hard to beat her so we tried to change our approach a bit and maybe get her confused,” Lugo said. “Once we got girls on base I knew I had to run, steal, bunt do whatever I could to get a couple of runs across, and we responded well to the situation.”
Columbia scored two more runs in the sixth inning on singles by Emily Viccarone and Taylor Napoli and with the help of two Clearview errors.
“Give Columbia a lot of credit. They came out ready to play today and I just don’t think we were ready and focused,” Clippers coach Denny Myers said. “It’s one game and we’ll be ready for tomorrow. We’re still where we need to be, we just have to put this behind us and step up our game.”
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