Last weekend, a who’s who of Missouri softball teams descended upon the Antimi Softball Complex in Columbia, Mo., for the Kewpie Classic.
The local contingent, which featured St. Dominic, Ursuline, Troy, Parkway South and Pattonville, were all topped in ultimately how they finished the tournament by another squad.
Fort Zumwalt South made it all the way to the championship game before falling to Blue Springs.
“The whole season, we’ve been underdogs,” Zumwalt South’s Mackenzie Peter said. “We just figured we had nothing to lose this tournament. We went out and just played as a team.”
Zumwalt South (9-11) handed the area’s No. 1 large-schools team, Troy, a loss in wild fashion.
Zumwalt South went up 11-0 before Troy scored 11 straight runs to tie it. The Bulldogs added a sixth-inning run to win 12-11.
In South’s nine-run second, Peter hit a grand slam.
“It was overwhelming, it was so exciting,” Peter said. “We hit together as a team, and it was awesome to beat Troy, the No. 1 team.”
For South coach Christy Pohlman, the entire event was a window into her team’s capabilities.
The coach added that her team was riding high heading into the tournament after defeating a rival.
“We have played several top-ranked teams this year and played them close,” Pohlman said. “Honestly, no teams on our schedule are pushovers. So we felt like we had prepared ourselves to play well against tough teams toward the end of the season.
"We had just come off a big win against Zumwalt North on Thursday, and our first game on Friday was against Jeff City. So that was the first team we had to get past. Both Jeff City and Blair Oaks weren’t cake walks. By the time we played Troy, we had already defeated two pretty good teams, and the girls were feeling relaxed and confident in their chances. All season, we have talked about hitting. As long as we do that, we are capable of winning big games.”
Pohlman said she couldn’t be happier with the Bulldogs. After all, the team has won four of five games after winning just one in six prior contests.
For Pohlman, the coming days are what really count.
“A team’s record doesn’t count for much when you begin district play,” Pohlman said. “We have improved all season and are getting in a groove at the right time. We have beat a couple top 10 teams and played a couple of others very close. At this point, the girls have seen the best. They have worked hard to play their best at this time of year, and that is all I can ask. I have asked them to focus on enjoying the sport and each other as we push on.”
COHEN NOT ENDURING SOPHOMORE SLUMP
After an impressive debut season in 2011, Raime Cohen is doing it again as a sophomore for Clayton.
Cohen leads the graduation-depleted Greyhounds (8-6) on offense and in the circle.
Through Tuesday, she is hitting .681 with a slugging percentage of .894, and she also has four doubles, two home runs and nine RBI to her credit.
“Raime is in the top three in league batting average at .681 and is second in the slugging stat at .894, reaching base safely 75-percent of the time,” Clayton coach Bill Schmalz said. “Her 31 runs scored also leads the league in that category. She is showing more patience at the plate this year, and that is reflected in her stats. It can easily be said that, as goes Raime, so goes Clayton.”
In the pitcher’s circle, Cohen has amassed a 5-6 record and a 3.55 earned-run average in 51 1/3 innings pitched.
Her 92 strikeouts also account for 1.71 outs per inning.
“We graduated nine seniors from last year's 15-5 team, including our catcher and three-fourths of our infield, so we have been a work in progress from the first day of tryouts and will be until the last out is recorded this year,” Schmalz said. “When Raime is in the circle, we are competitive, even in our significant rebuilding process. Her 92 strikeouts in 51 innings says it all -- she generally accounts for half the outs in the games she pitches. Raime leads the league in strikeouts. Four of our six losses this year have been by only one run.”
WILLIS' SLAM HELPS KIRKWOOD WIN IN EXTRA INNINGS
During their Sept. 24 game, there was no shortage of offense between Kirkwood and Ursuline.
The teams combined for 25 runs in the eight-inning contest. The final five came from Kirkwood as the Pioneers defeated Ursuline 15-10.
The Pioneers launched two home runs in the winning effort as Hanna Branch popped a solo shot, while Emily Willis’ grand slam was the biggest hit of the day.
“Emily has developed into a fierce hitter in her own right,” Kirkwood coach Amy Leatherberry said. “She's always had a pretty swing, but she worked hard in the off season to ensure she was hitting down on the ball and producing more line drives. Every time she hits, I'm confident she'll have a fantastic at bat. Her patience and knowledge of the game make her a tough hitter to face. She's having a phenomenal year all around, and I'm excited about what she's capable of during districts.”
Nicole Adams paced Ursuline with three doubles and three RBI in the loss.
LANCERS ARE ON FIRE
After starting the season with a pedestrian 5-5 mark, Lafayette has kicked its game up a notch.
Under coach Scott DeNoyer, the Lancers have won 10 of 11 games to move to 15-6 this season.
"Great pitching and defense, timely hitting and getting speed on the bases," said DeNoyer, answering the reasons for the Lancers' surge. "We are anxious to get started. We still think we have yet to play our best ball and expect to compete very well in postseason."
The only loss for Lafayette in the recent stretch was a 15-0 setback against Fort Zumwalt West on Sept. 14.
Madison Seifert has led the Lancers’ offense with a .424 average and 15 RBI.
Marissa Gress, Jenny Kohl, Ashley Parks, Kaycee Cohen and Mara Cohen are all hitting above .300.
Seifert is also the team’s top pitcher with a 13-4 record and a 1.46 earned-run average in 96 innings pitched.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Neither set of STLhighschoolsports.com softball rankings looks similar to last week’s.
Only Troy, the No. 1-ranked team, and Holt, at No. 10, held on to familiar spots after a competitive week.
Parkway South created havoc with recent wins over Eureka and Oakville, but four straight losses have dropped the Patriots and opened the door for Webster Groves to climb into the No. 2 spot.
Lafayette, which has won nine of 10 games, climbs into the rankings at No. 8.
As for the small-schools, the top half of the rankings remains unchanged, while the bottom half underwent a shake-up.
St. Elizabeth (13-4) moves to No. 6, while Orchard Farm (12-5) makes a return appearance.