Excitement Builds as LeBlond Heads to State

By Matt Tritten | mtritten@kq2.com

Published 10/24 2013 05:15PM

Updated 10/24 2013 06:48PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The temperature has dropped 40 degrees since the LeBlond softball team began the season, but they're welcoming the cooler weather.

"Knowing that we get to play whenever it's this cold is really awesome," junior Emily Nellestein said.

The fall-like weather signifies the goal they've been working toward all season: championship softball. The Eagles are one step away from the state title game for the first time since 2004.

"We started out the year 5-3, and it took us a game to get the kids in the right spots in the batting order and out on the field, and once we did we've ripped off 19 in a row," head coach Wayne Miller said.

Similar to the 2004 squad, the Eagles are riding starting pitching to the state semifinal. Kennadi Barron's posted a miniscule 0.89 ERA this season.

"Kennadi has just done everything that we've asked her to do," Miller said. "And Sophie Gentry, the catcher, calls a great game. Kennadi hits spots and throws the right pitches at the right time and when we have to catch it behind her, we catch it."

Even when the pitching is not sharp, the offense has stepped up with a .349 team batting average. LeBlond's confidence comes from teammates always picking each other up.

"We encourage each other to just keep our head up, everybody goes through slumps" Nellestein said. "And I think now it's hitting a peak at the perfect time."

The Eagles hope to carry that success for two more games. A state title appearance could match them up with Kelly High School, the team that knocked off LeBlond in the  2004 championship game.

"The first thing I told them when the final four was realized that Kelly was on the other side of the bracket just like they were in '04, and I'd sure like to play them again," Miller said.

"Our coach has talked about the whole thing with Kelly in 2004, and I think that we want to win it more than anything for him," Barron said. "I think it'd be good as a team, but we really want to win it for him because he is a good coach and he deserves it too."

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