Tatum Clopton whiffs 18 batters, FSHS softball secures 8-0 win over SM Northwest
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Free State softball’s star pitcher Tatum Clopton said she had an “off day” in Friday’s 8-0 win over Shawnee Mission Northwest.
The stat sheet suggests otherwise.
Clopton struck out a season-high 18 batters in the two-time state champions’ home victory. She didn’t even surrender a baserunner until a one-out walk in the seventh en route to her first no-hitter of the young season.
“I think I over-focused to a point because I was off,” said Clopton, an Oklahoma State signee. “I just stayed one pitch at a time, then one batter at a time and then one inning at a time. I was just staying in the moment and focusing on what I have to do next, and it clearly worked.”
Clopton, who gave up one hit in a 9-0 win over Olathe South earlier in the week, said she started to feel off while warming up on Friday. Maybe it was the delay — the game was originally scheduled for Thursday but was postponed to Friday because of weather. But whatever the reason, she said it felt like she wasn’t throwing with everything she had.
“I was just tight,” Clopton said. “I think not playing this game yesterday kind of threw me off. It wasn’t something that anyone else would know except for me.”
“There are days like that,” the two-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year continued. “And there are probably more days like that than when everything is on.”
Despite all that, Clopton needed just 14 pitches in the first to strike out three Shawnee Mission Northwest (3-1) batters. Clopton struck out the side in the second on 10 pitches, and she repeated that effort to the same three batters in the fifth.
“She’s gotten better throughout (the season),” FSHS head coach Lee Ice said. “She’s averaging probably 13 or 14 strikeouts a game. With 21 outs in a game, we only have to field the ball four or five times.”
Free State definitely didn’t need many defensive plays on Friday. The first one of the night came in the bottom of the third, when senior catcher Georgia Rea showed quick reflexes to catch a foul on a bunt attempt. In the fourth, third baseman Robin Todd fielded a grounder on a ball put in play by the opposing leadoff hitter. The only other defensive play of the night was also by Rea, who fielded another bunt attempt from the Cougars’ No. 9 hitter in the bottom of the sixth. She then delivered a laser to first base for the putout.
It wasn’t until the seventh that Clopton finally surrendered a baserunner. She gave up a free pass in the seventh with one out, but responded by striking out the next two batters to end the game, setting a new season-best mark for whiffs.
Clopton struck out 17 batters in the season-opening win over Olathe Northwest but needed 137 pitches to do so. She only threw 79 pitches against Shawnee Mission Northwest.
“She’s just always an animal out there,” senior shortstop Sara Roszak said. “She’s a beast. It’s really easy playing behind her. It’s a little boring sometimes, but I’m always rooting for her.”
Roszak was just as much of an impact player on the offensive side, however. The Kansas softball signee clubbed two home runs, both of which were two-run shots that cleared the fence without getting much altitude.
After her two line-drive blasts on Friday, Roszak now has four homers this year. Three of those home runs took place at the Firebirds’ home ballpark.
“We never want to take the bat out of her hand,” Ice said of his No. 3 hitter. “She will hit all types of different pitches. She will hit anything.”
Roszak’s first blast was during a four-run effort that helped the Firebirds take control of the contest.
Senior Samantha Bradbury got on base to begin the inning before eventually stealing second base. Rea responded by scoring her with a triple to left before junior Jasmine Brixius followed suit with a triple of her own.
That’s when Roszak, who was next up to bat, started to sense the energy in the dugout for the first time all game.
“They were getting on base and moving each other around,” Roszak said. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s do this. It’s time to get started.'”
Roszak then clobbered the first pitch she saw over the left-field fence to cap off the four-run frame. Brixius added a run in the fourth on an RBI double to score Rea, who got in position with another triple.
The Firebirds finished it out with three more runs in the sixth, the first of which was brought in on a base knock from Brixius. Roszak then launched another two-run homer for good measure and was greeted with a big smile from Clopton at home plate.
“I hit right after her,” Clopton said. “The fact I get to witness them from right there is amazing. She is so fun to watch, not only when she’s on defense. She’s such a beast of a hitter.”
Free State (4-0) will be back in action on Saturday, when it faces Olathe West at the College Boulevard Activity Center. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.
Free State 8, SM Northwest 0
SMNW 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 0 3
FSHS 0 0 4 1 0 3 X — 8 12 0
WP — Clopton 7 IP, 0R 0H 18K 1BB.
Hitting highlights: Sara Roszak 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI; Jasmine Brixius 3-for-4, 2 RBI, 2B, 3B; Georgia Rea 2-for-4, 2 3B, RBI.