By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Since joining spring softball competition in 2015, Purdy has been among the state’s premier programs.
The Lady Eagles have won four straight district championships. They reached the state title game two years ago.
This spring, the Lady Eagles will have some new names taking the field after graduating a stellar 2018 senior class. Purdy will also compete in a new conference: the Southwest Central League.
“We are going to be very young in key positions,” said Purdy coach Lori Videmschek. “This could be the quickest team I have ever had. I feel with the new SWCL conference that we will need to be ready to play and compete each day.”
Purdy graduated four starters, three of which earned all-state honors.
Pitcher Hallie Henderson now plays for Johnson Community College in Kansas. Fellow all-staters Casey Ellison (catcher) and Zoey Brown (second base) are also gone.
Center fielder Mikey Schad earned all-conference honors.
“These four had a lot of success at Purdy,” Videmschek said. “They are hard to replace, but I feel I have kids that can step up and do the job.”
Purdy welcomes back five full-time starters.
Senior McKenzie Renkoski, who hit .354 last season, will split time between center field and catcher.
Like a lot of her teammates, Renkoski brings tremendous speed to the field and base paths.
“She is very fast,” Videmschek said. “I look for her to steal 30 or more bases. When she’s on the bases, it causes a lot of problems for teams.”
Sophomore Lauren Schallert is expected to replace Henderson as Purdy’s full-time pitcher.
In limited action last season, Schallert went 4-2 in the circle. At the plate, she hit .411 with 20 RBIs.
“I’m excited to see what Lauren can do for us in the circle,” Videmschek said. “She has a special talent that very few kids have. We want to get her to use that talent and keep improving every day.”
Kylie Wood started at third base last season. She hit .333 with 17 RBIs. Videmschek will count on Wood to lead the infield group.
“She has been working very hard in the offseason to improve her skill level and I expect her to surprise a lot of teams,” Videmschek said. “Her leadership on the infield will help our younger kids.”
As a freshman, Bayleigh Robbins earned a starting role at shortstop. She hit .345 with 16 RBIs.
“She did an outstanding job at shortstop,” Videmschek said. “I expect her to do bigger things this year in the field and at the plate.”
Kinlsey Mattingly also started as a freshman. The right fielder hit over .250 and could shift to an infield role, Videmschek said.
Purdy finished 20-5 overall last season, their fourth straight season of 20 or more wins. The Lady Eagles lost, 3-2, against Liberal in the state quarterfinals.
Videmschek, who doubled as Cassville’s softball coach in the fall, will depend on several newcomers to fill the remaining starting spots.
Junior Shelby Haskins had a leg injury last year and could compete for an infield spot this year, Videmschek said.
The sophomore class includes McKenna Orwig, Breanna Perkins and Danielle Reed.
“McKenna is very quick and will see varsity playing time,” Videmschek said. “I’m excited to see how she has improved from this summer and continues to improve during the season.”
“Breanna didn’t play softball last year but is very athletic and will help us in both infield and outfield. Danielle played on JV and could move up to varsity this year as she continues to improve.”
Another sophomore, Annabelle Bowman, joins the team as a transfer.
“She’s athletic and will be competing for an infield or outfield position,” Videmschek said. “I’m excited to see how she develops this season. She’s a very competitive kid.”
Freshman Dally Craig could emerge as the team’s starting catcher. Videmschek praised her toughness behind the plate.
Freshman Robyn Schad will split time between the pitching circle and field.
Videmschek said Purdy’s strengths are pitching, defense and overall team speed. Hitting could be a work in progress with an overall young lineup.
“It could be rough for the first couple of weeks but I feel that we will get better and be ready to compete for a district championship by May,” Videmschek said. “It will be tough but that’s what makes softball such a great sport to play. It’s getting the kids to buy in on what we want.
“It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish that matters.”
Purdy opens the regular season March 15 at Pierce City.