Young Lady Eagles yearn for Final Four return

Wednesday, March 9, 2022
All-State first baseman Robyn Schad makes an out during the Class 1 state championship last year. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Defending state champs lost 7 seniors, reloading this season

Matching 2021’s season is a tall task for the young Purdy softball team, but the fledgling Lady Eagles are searching for their wings and hope to fly back to another Final Four and state title.

The Class 1 state champ last season with a record of 30-1, Purdy is reloading this season with a much younger lineup that is ready to grow.

All-State center fielder Jessi Hoppes brings in a ball during the Lady Eagles’ state championship win last season. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

“Winning a championship is once and a lifetime accomplishment,” said Lori Videmschek, Purdy softball coach. “This past season was so special, and a great way to finish our season. I feel that these seniors have been working all four years to reach their goal. We had such great leadership and dedication and commitment this past year. It was just a special year.

“As I look back and get ready for this season, our underclassmen know what it takes to get back to the final four. We have to be patient this year and learn and grow. We will be very young and we will have growing pains along the way. We are motivated to get back to the final four and be contenders in our conference and districts. I am very excited to see what we can do this year.”

Purdy lost seven seniors from the title team, all four-year starters. Pitcher Lauren Schallert plays at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., and other holes were left by shortstop Bayleigh Robbins, third baseman Jaclin Fenski, second baseman Annabelle Bowman, left fielder Kinsley Mattingly, right fielder Makenna Orwig and Faith Corscia.

“These seniors will be hard to replace, and what I will miss most is their hard work ethic and determination to get better every day,” Videmschek said. “I will also be missing All-State catcher Dally Craig, who got hurt in basketball season and will be out for the season.”

While those eight are out, there is no shortage of talent returning to the Black and Gold diamond. Leading the team will be senior All-State first baseman Robyn Schad and sophomore All-State center fielder Jessi Hoppes.

“Robyn is great leader and she leads by example,” Videmschek said. “I’m so excited to see what she can do for us this year. Robyn is so explosive at the plate. She can drive the ball, and I expect her to lead our team offensively and defensively. This can be an exciting year for her.

“Jessi had an outstanding freshman year at CF. She is super fast and can get a great jump on the ball. She played her best at the state tournament, and I’m expecting her to continue to get better at the plate and with her speed on the bases. She can make adjustments at the plate and either bunt or hit with power, so it’s hard for people to defend her.”

Adding experience to the roster is sophomore Hadley Hughes, who had varsity experience on the mound and at third base. She pitched eight varsity games and was 3-0 for the year.

“She also played eight games at third base and did an outstanding job for us,” Videmschek said. “I’m expecting her to come in and be a workhorse for us this year. I’m excited to see what she can do at the plate. She is very strong with a lot of power.”

Behind Hughes trails a convocation of newcomers, including seniors Jasmine Holloway, Areli Garcia and Jaden Morgan; junior Kavery Postlewait; sophmores Riley Stanford and Raeley Henderson; and freshmen Brooklynn Bunch, Gracie Patton, Rosa Schad, Zoey Webb, Serenity Morris and Marlene Villa.

“We will be very young, but these kids did a great job last summer, and I believe if they work hard and be committed to our program, we will have success on the field,” Videmschek said. “As I look and see, we will be very young in key spots, but I believe we will have a few growing pains and will get better at the end of the year. The quicker they make the adjustments during the season, the better players they will become.”

Videmschek, who is entering her 10th year with the Purdy softball program and 18th as a coach, said the team’s greatest strengths going into game No. 1 are speed and work ethic.

“Most of these kids that I have were on our team or a manager on our team, and they know what it takes to be a champion,” she said. “If they come in every day and work hard and never give up and trust the coaching staff, we will have a chance to be a very good team. I know we will have failure along the way, but that is what makes you better. Softball is such a great sport and these kids are hungry and determined to get better and compete every day.”

Videmschek said to that end, she does not soften the strength of schedule based on Purdy’s age or skills.

“Our schedule is one of the toughest in the area,” she said. “I keep the same schedule from last year’s team. We also picked up state champs Skyline, and we play Diamond at the Mt. Vernon Tournament, who in the final four. We also play Mt. Vernon, Strafford and Sarcoxie in regular season. In the SouthWest Central League, Sparta and Crane will be the top two teams to go after. So, there is no softening our schedule. I want us to know we have to continue to work to compete against some of the best teams in southwest Missouri.”

A combination of pitchers will toss the ball for Purdy, including Hughes.

“Hadley will be a number one coming into the season,” Videmschek said. “How she develops during the season will determine how far we get into districts. She is a very strong pitcher, and I believe if she is committed to be the best, she will have success on the mound. Junior Kavery Postlewait will also be pitching for us. I know with hard work she will do a great job on the mound.”

As for the fielders and offensively, Videmschek said a lineup has not been totally set.

“I do know we will be very strong on the bases,” Videmschek said. “Speed and our ability to handle the bat at the plate are strengths. I feel we will have both power and speed at plate. Our defense will be very young. I know we will make mistakes, but learning from our mistakes and getting better. I feel we can be very good at the end of the year. Exciting is how I would explain our defense.”

With youth, however, comes some concern, and maturity is in the mind of Coach V.

“Our maturity level in key spots will be tested, with us being so young and learning how to overcome adversity and how we respond to adversity.”

More exciting for the team, Videmschek said, is the want to win.

“We are hungry and ready to win again,” she said. “We are working hard every day and want to get better. My kids are excited to play softball. They love it.”

Purdy will host a jamboree on March 14 at 4 p.m. with Clever, Pierce City and Exeter. The Lady Eagles’ home opener is on March 29 against Billings. The Mt. Vernon Tournament is March 21-24.

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