CAPE GIRARDEAU -- For Notre Dame seniors Mika Williamson, Tracie Kluesner and Katlyn Kelley, it has been a four-year work-in-progress.
The payoff came Saturday afternoon in a district title. The top-seeded Lady Bulldogs (24-3) defeated perennial softball power Kelly, the No. 2 seed, 7-0 at Arena Park, ending the Lady Hawks' 15-year stranglehold on the Class 2A, District 2 first-place trophy.
Kelly dropped to 17-6, with three of its losses coming to Notre Dame.
"This is what we've been working for since our freshman year," said Kelley, the team's leadoff hitter and second baseman.
Added Kluesner, "We all played together this summer and worked hard and that really helped."
Sophomore hurler Lindsay Reinagel -- who fanned one and walked none -- shut out Kelly on six hits and the Lady Hawks had no runner advance past second base.
Notre Dame's defense was nearly flawless. The Lady Bulldogs, in just their fourth year of fall softball, committed one error but that runner was erased on a line-drive double play. "Our defense was awesome," said Williamson, the first baseman. "As long as we can hit, we can go a ways because our defense has been so good."
The same couldn't be said for Kelly on Saturday. The Lady Hawks committed four errors that led to three unearned runs. Bridgett Riley suffered the loss, allowing eight hits. She struck out 10 and walked none.
"Errors hurt us," Kelly coach Melanie Heuring said. "This week we talked about not hurting ourselves because Notre Dame is going to capitalize on your mistakes."
Notre Dame got the only run it would need in the second inning when Sara Berkbigler tripled and scored on a bloop single by Ramona Blankenship.
The Lady Bulldogs added two more in the third on a two-run single by Williamson to score Kluesner and Sarah Gosche. Berkbigler tripled again and scored in the sixth. The Lady Bulldogs added two more unearned runs to make it 6-0.
Kelley, who went 2-for-4 with two runs, scored Notre Dame's final run. She singled to lead off the inning and later scored on a two-out error.
Notre Dame coach Chris Janet was elated, but not surprised by his team's accomplishment.
"It took four years to dethrone them, but we're excited right now," Janet said. "I tell you what, these girls are awesome. They wanted this so bad, maybe more than any team I've ever coached."
Notre Dame, which will play on the road in Wednesday's sectional round, has not yet lost to a small school. The Lady Bulldogs have lost by a total of three runs to two 3A schools and a 4A school.