30 for Purdy
Lady Eagles win Class 1 State Championship
Not many teams amass 30 wins in a single season, but this year’s Purdy softball team has, and the last win was the sweetest — a 4-1 victory over Holcomb in the Class 1 State Championship at Killian Sports Complex in Springfield.
Coach Lori Videmschek, with tears falling still almost 20 minutes after the win, said the first title for Purdy is a credit to her seniors and a team that has put in the work to get the trophy.
“I feel sort of numb,” she said. “I’m so proud of these seniors. They’ve been working since their freshman year and giving it all they have these last four years. The emotion is seeing the happiness on those kids’ faces.
“When COVID hit, we don’t have a hitting facility, but the kids and their parents would go and hit from April all the way to August, doing things to get better. It paid off today because our hitting has been stellar all year long. One through nine, we had timely hitting when we needed, and some sneaky base-running, and that put the pressure on them a little bit.”
The Lady Eagles’ victory came largely on the bat of Robyn Schad, who cracked a line drive home run in the fifth inning to provide the winning point.
“It was an amazing feeling when I hit it,” she said. “I knew it was gone. You just have that gut feeling when you hit the ball. It’s just amazing. The feeling that you’re state champs is amazing and what we’ve worked all year for.”
Kinsley Mattingly started the scoring in the third inning on a grounder Schad sent to Holcomb’s shortstop, which was bobbled. The error as returned in the next inning, as Purdy overthrew a ball to first that allowed a Lady Hornets runner to beat a throw back home and tie it 1-1.
Schad’s homer came in the fifth, and in the sixth, Purdy added two more. Jessi Hoppes doubled to center field, then Annabelle Bowman singled to left field, sending Hoppes home.
Makenna Orwig then tried to bunt, which popped up enough for the third baseman to catch it. However, alert base-running by Bowman allowed her to steal second, then Mattingly singled up the middle to send her home for the fourth point.
“We had been watching their middle infield and that’s coach Jennifer Schallert Cornelius’ read,” Videmschek said. “She was watching the second baseman, and the shortstop turned her back to the whole play, and that’s her call to get that runner to second. She told Annabelle on that next play to be ready, and she got back to the bag, coach read it and, boom, she ran to second.”
Pitcher Lauren Schallert, who set a state semifinal record on Saturday with 16 strikeouts, tallied 7 on Sunday and allowed 2 hits. She said the last inning was an intense one.
“It’s hard to even describe [what it feels like to win state],” she said. “My heart was pounding, and it’s unbelievable and exciting. [In the last inning], I was taking deep breaths and calming myself down. I wasn’t nervous, but I knew we needed to get those last three outs, and I knew if they put the ball in play my team would get those outs we needed. Going into that seventh inning knowing we were ahead by 3 calmed my nerves for sure.”
Videmschek said she was not surprised with Schallert’s Final Four performances.
“Lauren does what Lauren does,” she said. “She competes and plays and knows what she is able to do and what she needs to do. And, she’s coachable. We say to her, ‘You have got to get the ball down, you got to move it, you got to spin it and make it wiggle,’ and she did, and that kept those batters off balance. [Holcomb is] a good hitting team, and she had to bring her A-game because they were going to put the ball in play.”
Schallert credited her teammates for much of the win.
“Those ground balls [Holcomb] hit and the plays we made — Jessi had amazing catches out in the outfield and Bayleigh and Annabelle had amazing pop fly catches and ground balls,” she said. “It’s amazing how well we work together as a team.”
Hoppes, a freshman, had herself a day in the outfield, catching at least three pop flies on the run, one of which was over her left shoulder and saved a run being scored.
Bowman at one point made a diving catch on a pop fly landing a few feet into the grass, and Robbins fielded and delivered every grounder to her to first base for outs, including the final out of the game.
“Defensively, Hoppes did an outstanding job in the outfield on running those fly balls down, and that’s what she’s been doing all year long,” Videmschek said. “Every one of these kids did something really special today to give us a chance to win.”
Purdy tallied 8 hits to Holcomb’s 2, which Videmschek credited to the team’s work in practice all season long.
“They are mentally tough,” she said. “We work on hitting every day in practice. I don’t think there’s a day we take off working on tees and getting to our contact point and hitting through that contact point, whether it’s outside, inside or down the middle. We used that a lot today and that helped us out. I knew we could put the bat on the ball. Their pitcher did an outstanding job, but if we were patient enough and hit the strikes we need, we would be able to drive the ball.
“We had runners in scoring position a number of times and were finally able to get some hits and runs through to break it open. The bottom of the order was huge and has been all year long, winning us some ballgames. Annabelle, when we played Strafford, came up with the game-winning hit. She and Lauren are probably the two toughest mentally on the team, and she knows how to cut her swing and get it where it needs to be.”
Mattingly said the hits were a change in tactics for the team during the game.
“I think all season we’ve been working for this and to get to this point, and we were ready to come hit the ball,” she said. “We were hitting deep fly balls but they were ready for them so we figured out we had to hit the ball on the ground and adjust. When we adjusted we started getting runners on and scoring.”
Part of Purdy’s storyline is a change in the Missouri State High School Athletics Association’s classifications this year, creating two spring softball classes instead of one. The Lady Eagles, under Videmschek’s guidance, lost a state title game to Strafford, 3-0, in 2017, and they have been previously ousted from state competition by schools as large as Mt. Vernon.
“We got an equal opportunity [this year] compared to before,” Videmschek said. “We played against a lot of these bigger schools, and now we are getting back in our classification and the same group of kids we normally would and it makes it more even a little bit.
“But, you can’t take anything away from that Holcomb team. They come out and battled and played hard. I’m super proud of how our kids came out and they wanted it from the beginning. It was a case of who wants it more and we did the things we needed to do.”
Another contributor, some may say, was Purdy’s noisy dugout, which Holcomb tried to match.
“I think we wore them down, and our cheering and everything got them riled up,” Robbins said.
In the end, whatever it took, the girls all said the feeling was indescribable.
“I’m still really shaky,” Robbins said 15 minutes after the game’s end. “I’m super excited because we worked really hard for this, and I knew we could do it. We just had to take it game by game.”
Schallert said it’s the team’s family mentality that got them so far this season.
“I don’t think of us as a team, more a family,” she said. “Whether a freshman or a senior, we all get along and treat each other like sisters. That’s just one of the most amazing things we’ve been blessed with is how well we mold together, and that’s kept us going far.”