ST. CHARLES — Mary Clare Murphy made the most of her down time.
Like the majority of her teammates on the Gilbault High softball team, Murphy was disappointed when her squad was forced to cancel its spring campaign at the last minute due to a lack of players.
But instead of moping around, Murphy put her down and went to work.
"I didn't just sit around all spring," she recalled.
It showed on Saturday afternoon.
Murphy had two hits and drove in three runs to lead the St. Louis Stix to an 8-1 win over St. Louis Reaper in pool play in the 18U division of the Show-Me Softball Showdown at McNair Park.
The Stix moved into Sunday's final round of play. The championship game of the 13-team, four-pool tournament will be played at 7:20 p.m. at Waplehorst Park.
Murphy kick-started a 10-hit attack with a two-run, bases loaded-single that snapped a scoreless tie in the second inning of the contest, which was halted in the bottom of the fourth by time constraints.
She then added a run-scoring hit in the third to push the lead to 8-1.
Murphy spent most of her spring sharpening her game through workouts. She came into the summer season as prepared as players who had performed on the high school level all spring and fall.
"She did a lot of things to keep herself going and keep herself in rhythm," Stix coach Todd Schmidt said. "I'm not surprised. She's a dedicated kid."
That dedication has paid off. Murphy is one of the team's hottest hitters.
"I'm feeling pretty good at the plate," she said.
Murphy, a Columbia, Illinois resident, is transferring to Cor Jesu Academy, where she will be a junior this fall.
Kaley Ware, a home school student from Manchester, added two hits and two RBI to the winning attack. Mya Hillermann, a junior-to-be at Borgia, chipped in with a two-run triple. Natalie Archer, from Parkway South, added two hits and an RBI.
Borgia incoming junior Abi Schmidt, daughter of Todd, tossed three shutout innings to pick up the win. Abi is the sister of baseball standout Joe Schmidt, the Post-Dispatch player of the year, who led the Knights to the state title. Abi was pitching with a broken nose suffered in practice.
The Stix scored six times in the third inning to break open a close contest.
"Our girls were pretty aggressive out there at the plate," Todd Schmidt said. "They know if they see something they like, go for it."
The Stix are a 16-under team playing up in the talent-rich tournament. The one-sided win over the older Reaper group felt extra good to the players.
"It's nice to see different, older pitchers," Ware said. "Teams that can hit the ball harder, run faster, we can learn from them. Getting to play up — it just pushes us as a team."
Ware, like Murphy, did not play on the high school level this year. She also stepped right into the lineup without missing a beat.
"We both understand what it's like not playing (in spring)," Ware said.
The Stix struck in the second inning against Reaper starter Madelyn Ruszala, who will be a junior at St. Clair High. Ware led off with a single. Hayden Cochran and Kate Sommer followed with bunt hits to set the stage for Murphy's two-run single.
Archer started the six-run uprising in the third with a triple.
The St. Louis-based Reaper club managed just five hits.
"We haven't been hitting for about a week or so now," Reaper manager Michael Howard said. "You go through slumps like this. You've just got to work your way out of it."
Danni Exler and Hannah Rivas had two hits each for Reaper.