By Matt Turer — @MattTurer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
HEAD COACH: Lori Videmschek
2017 RECORD: 27-2 (8-0 Ozark 7)
2017 POSTSEASON: STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: Lost 3-0 to Strafford
RETURNING PLAYERS: P Hallie Henderson (Sr.), C Casey Ellison (Sr.), 2B Zoe Brown,1B Mikey Schad, OF/IF Kylie Woods, OF MaKenzie Renkoski
Lost in Purdy’s three straight district titles and a 2017 state runner-up finish is something equally if not more remarkable: 75-9.
The Eagles are 66 games over .500 the past three seasons, equating to an .893 win percentage. Lori Videmschek has built a true softball powerhouse in Purdy.
“Expectations are set very high this year,” Videmschek said. “Coming off a second-place finish last year my kids are hungry and are ready to get back there this year. This year’s team is going to be exciting to watch.”
Purdy dropped the state final in 2017 with a 3-0 final to Strafford. All-state pitcher and All-O-Zone Player of the Year Hallie Henderson allowed a three-spot in the fourth inning, and Purdy’s bats mustered just two hits off Strafford ace Zoey Mullings. And that was that.
But this run isn’t over.
Six starters return from last year’s team, including Henderson.
Henderson struck out 252 batters in 145 2/3 innings last spring, nearly tripling her strikeout total from her sophomore year. She finished with a 0.96 ERA that probably should have been lower with her 0.56 WHIP, which essentially means that over a hypothetical seven-inning game (which Purdy played very few of) just four total baserunners would have reached against Henderson—and that’s rounding up.
That performance on the mound (including a no-hitter in the state semifinals against then-undefeated Lincoln) led Purdy all the way to the state-title game, where they fell 3-0 to Strafford. Henderson is good at the plate as well. Hitting in the middle of Purdy’s potent lineup, she finished 2017 with a .470 average, 16 extra-base hits, 43 runs and a 1.292 OPS.
“I expect big things from this senior this year,” Videmschek said. “I’m hoping she will step in and get started where she left off from last year. If Hallie has as good as a year as she did last year we will have a shot at getting back to the state tournament.”
A pair of all-staters are gone in Rion Boyd and Devyn Callahan, in addition to an All-O-Zone bat in Sami House, but a second all-state pick beyond Henderson is back in catcher Casey Ellison (.457 AVG., 16 XBH, 33 R, 27 RBIs, 15 SB).
“[Ellison] can be one of the best catchers in the state,” Videmschek said. “I’m expecting her to step up and be a leader this year. She handles our pitching staff day in and day out. Expecting big things from her.”
Four others starters return as well. Their key stats followed by commentary by Videmschek follows:
Zoe Brown (.337 AVG., 12 XBH, 33 R, 20 SB): “Zoe is possible the best defensive second baseman that I have ever coached. I’m expecting her to step her roll up at the plate and get more consistent.”
Mikey Schad (.417 AVG., 12 XBH, 33 R, 34 RBIs, 11 SB): “Mikey is one of my clutch hitters. She always seems to get the job done when it counts. I’m expecting her to play both infield and outfield.”
MaKenzie Renkoski (.207 AVG., 9 SB): “Kenzie had a great year last year and got better each day. Her speed causeS teams to throw the ball all over the place.”
Kylie Wood (.366 AVG., 32 R, 28 RBIs, 16 SB): “Kylie had an outstanding freshman year. I’m looking for her to step in and pickup from last year. She will be moved into the infield this year, which will be adjustment.”
Purdy also welcomes six varsity newcomers in outfielder Maddie Renkoski, outfielder Shane Whisman, pitcher Lauren Schallert, shortstop Bayleigh Robbins, outfielder Kensley Mattingly and outfielder Daniella Reed.
Renkosi is a slapper with speed, Whisman will compete for a starting spot, Schallert will help out on the mound and has power at the plate, Robbins is expected to fill the hole at shortstop and is someone Videmschek has high expectations for, Mattingly will platoon infield/outfield and Reed is a transfer from Washburn.
“Even with the loss of Boyd, House and Callahan, this year’s team could be better,” Videmschek said. “We just need to figure out what everyone’s roles are and embrace that. With Boyd and House’s power gone, we will be a little faster and more of a threat running and bunting.”
Freshman pitcher Schallert’s ability to relieve Henderson of some innings could help Purdy in the postseason.
“With Lauren coming in to help pitch some of those innings, I’m expecting [Henderson] to have a better year and towards the end of the season when it counts her to be fresh and not worn out as much.
“That way she can concentrate more on her bat which we need to step up this year. If Hallie and Lauren together have a great season then we have a shot to get back to the state tournament.”