Balance fueling Purdy’s playoff run

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Kylie Wood throws the ball back to the infield for the Lady Eagles during quarterfinal action on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Lady Eagles face test against unbeaten Lincoln

Two possible games are all that remain on the Purdy softball team’s schedule.

The first, a semifinal battle with undefeated Lincoln on Friday with a berth to the spring championship game on the line.

Purdy's McKenzie Renkoski beats out a throw to first for an infield single during Friday's quarterfinal win over Pierce City. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“They have a good pitcher, speed on the bases and play solid defense,” said Lori Videmschek, Purdy coach. “Our goal is just to approach Friday like any other game and just go have fun.”

Purdy will face the 21-0 Lady Cardinals and ace pitcher Sloan Swearingin.

Swearingin struck out a season-high 14 in a 10-2 quarterfinal win over Kingsville on Saturday. She has 174 strikeouts in 90 innings this season and an ERA of .50.

The Lady Cardinals’ 21-0 record is thanks in large part to the team hitting .497 at the plate.

Lincoln has six hitters batting above .500, and two over .600 in Swearingin (.607) and Haley Mackey (.614). Aleah Paxton (.554), Paige Bybee (.516), Genesis Smith (.531) and Paige Kahler (.526) account for the others with gaudy stats.

“We beefed our schedule up this season because we wanted to be ready for a late season run,” Videmschek said. “We’ve faced Mt. Vernon, Strafford, Southwest, Wheaton, Clever, Pierce City, Liberal and Sweet Springs, who all have tough pitchers that can shut down lineups. We know it will be tough Friday, but we feel like we are prepared.”

The Lady Eagles are making sure to approach this game just like any other. There will be no pep rally at school, no charter bus and nothing out of the ordinary to celebrate.

“It’s just another game,” Videmschek said. “My girls are at their best when they act a little squirrelly on the bus and sing karaoke during warmups. I want them to be relaxed and be themselves. Having fun will be the key for us.”

A 4-1 win over Pierce City on Friday was just the latest step in a path that Purdy hopes ends in a state softball title by the end of this week.

At 26-1, Purdy has torn through the season and its opponents like a wildfire in a forest full of dry foliage.

The key, not just to getting to the semifinal but to the season for Purdy, is its balance.

“These kids just come out to play,” Videmschek said. “I told the girls that if we just came out, played our game and grind out hits, and with the way Hallie [Henderson] pitches, we were gonna win the game.”

Entering the semifinal game, Purdy

was hitting .432 as a team. Eight of the Lady Eagles’ hitters had a season average of .333 or higher, with three batters hitting at least .500.

Henderson has been nearly un-hittable in the pitcher’s circle with a sub-1, .950 ERA.

“Hallie has just exceeded all of my expectations,” Videmsheck said.

Against Pierce City, it was the bottom third of the lineup that delivered the punch for Purdy. Mikey Schad was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, and Sami House belted a pair of doubles.

Videmschek said that type of production did not surprise her, and every hitter in her lineup is capable of starting a rally.

“I trust any of our batters at the plate,” she said. “The girls put the ball in play, and usually good things will happen when you can do that.”

The win catapulted the Lady Eagles to their first Final Four since 2004. The team is still coming to grips with the accomplishment.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited,” Schad said. “We’re so excited. We’ll be ready to play.”

One thing Purdy’s players said they can always count on is the crowd support.

“We have the best fans around,” Videmschek said. “Everything we do, they come and support us 100 percent.”

Videmschek said the team took the weekend to enjoy the win and then reset on Monday to begin working on the semifinal tilt with Lincoln on Friday.

Game time is set for 7 p.m at the Killian Sports Complex in Springfield.

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