Eureka, St. Joseph’s Academy, Kennedy to play in quarterfinal softball games
By: Warren Mayes
One victory separates Eureka, St. Joseph’s Academy and Kennedy from reaching the Final Four in high school girls softball.
All three will play in the quarterfinals Saturday (Oct. 13) to try and punch a ticket to the state finals.
In Class 4, Eureka will entertain Northwest at 1 p.m. St. Joseph’s Academy will travel to St. Peters to play Francis Howell at 12:30 p.m. at C & H Park.
In Class 3, Kennedy will host Festus at 1 p.m. at Sean Oliver Field.
Eureka (19-1) reached the Final Four last fall and went home fourth. The Wildcats have been on a mission this season to return. To do so, they must defeat fellow Suburban West Conference foe Northwest. The two teams did not meet in the regular season because of a rainout.
The Wildcats have won 12 consecutive games. However, they will not overlook Northwest (15-11), Eureka coach Mark Mosley said.
“I think this is a different Northwest team,” Mosley said. “I expect them to be very pumped up and excited, obviously they are playing well right now, and they always manage to bring a big crowd with them, so it will be a tough game. Their record does not reflect how well they have played and are playing. Anytime you come off wins like they’ve had (2 extra-inning games), you’re doing something right.”
The Wildcats have been a club that takes it one game at a time despite their desire to return to state and bring home a big trophy.
“They know it’s another step to climb to reach our goal,” Mosley said. “We do not overlook the game to be played though — that would not end well. All season long we have not mentioned the ‘S’ (state) word. We’ve approached every game the same way, knowing what our ultimate objective is, and knowing that to reach it we have to take care of the game and opponent at hand.
“We are focused on Northwest so we can reach state. We are not focused on state.”
Ditto for coach J.P. Cummings and St. Joseph’s Academy Angels (15-8).
“We approach every game the same way — we believe we are facing the best pitcher in the state and facing the best team in the state,” Cummings said. “We are confident in what we need to do.”
Francis Howell (19-8) advanced with by knocking out defending state champion Troy.
“Francis Howell is very, very good,” Cummings said. “They have power, speed, pitching, and great contact hitters. They are well-coached and prepared.
“Francis Howell is such a huge challenge that all we can see Francis Howell, nothing else.”
Kennedy coach Troy Ufert said his Celts also do not count their chickens before they are hatched. State has not been discussed.
“That has never really crossed my mind with this group. They understand that they can’t assume anything,” Ufert said “I think the 7-0 loss versus O’Fallon Christian in early September opened their eyes a bit. They regrouped and have played pretty solid softball since. When we play good defense we are tough are to beat. We have won games with our bats, our gloves, our small ball game, our pitching, our baserunning.”
Kennedy (18-4) will be facing a new foe in Festus (24-2).
“In my five years at Kennedy, we have not played Festus,” Ufert said. “I do know they have a strong softball program and they are well-coached.”
Eureka reached the quarterfinals with a 7-0 win over Webster Groves in a sectional game at Webster’s Plymouth Field. Webster Groves finished 23-2. Both of its losses were to Eureka.
“We were very confident heading into the Webster game,” Mosley said. “We knew it would be tough, but we also knew that when we played them the first time in the season we were not hitting well yet and were still figuring some things out. I felt good going in to the game.”
However, Mosley acknowledged he would not have predicted the final outcome.
“I don’t know that I expected a seven-run win,” Mosley said. “Webster had been outscoring their opponents pretty easily throughout the year. Luckily for us, Webster made some mistakes, and we capitalized on them like good teams should. We put pressure on them nearly every inning, and it’s pretty hard to keep this lineup down for long.
“We are pretty strong top to bottom. I also think the strength of our schedule helped because we’ve seen so many good lineups and pitchers.”
Eureka Maddie Krumrey struck out 14 in the victory. Kelsey Tepen struck a key blow offensively with a bases-loaded single coupled with an error that cleaned the bases.
“The biggest difference in the win was pressure and pitching,” Mosley said. “Krumrey and (catcher Syd) Tockman did not really allow Webster any opportunities to do much. We had a game plan for how we wanted to attack their hitters, and those two girls executed it perfectly.
“We knew Webster’s strength was speed, so we took that away and kept them off the bases. Krumrey was the biggest obvious standout with 14 strikeouts.”
St. Joseph’s advanced with a 13-3 thrashing of host Hazelwood West. Anna Langhorst led the Angels by going 4-for-4 with a double a home run and 6 RBIs.
“We competed in every at-bat, and got the ball in play, and we had good pitching and defense,” Cummings said about the victory.
Kennedy moved on with a 12-5 win over Lutheran South, a team that defeated the Celts two years ago in the sectional. Girls who are on the Kennedy squad then are seniors Michelle Silva and Macy McAndrews; juniors Taylor Miller, Rachel Kozuszek, Abby Schmidt, Lexi Donahue, and Kathleen Miller.
“They remember the disappointment. I think it motivates them,” Ufert said. “The girls seemed confident going into the game. There wasn’t a ‘nervous’ feel to them.”
The game was not as one-sided as final score would seem. It was tied 4-4 going into the bottom of the fifth when Kennedy scored four runs to break it open.
“We played better on defense. We took a few hits and runs away from them with our gloves,” Ufert said. “Melissa Kasting, Michelle Silva, Amanda Cabrera, and Rachel Kozuszek all made outstanding plays. Lutheran South made a few mistakes in the field and we took advantage of them.”
All of the coaches agree their teams are playing well. None has been surprised by the success of their teams.
“This is a great group of girls, so when they are successful, I am never surprised,” Mosley said. “I’m more surprised when they struggle, not succeed. They work hard, listen to their coaches, and care about each other, so good things usually happen with characteristics like that.”
The only way Cummings is surprised by how the demeanor of his Angels.
“Sometimes in how steady they are, of how calmly confident they are,” Cummings said. “I am very proud of how this team has continue to adjust, adapt, get better, get smarter, and how they play together.”
Ufert said his Celts have moved forward all season.
“They have improved and grown as a team as the season has progressed,” Ufert said. “There are always ups and downs in a season and as a coach you want to see how the athletes will react. Our girls seem to bounce back well when times are rough and they don’t get content when things are going well. They just compete. No matter the score or the inning they compete.
“They are a tight group out there. No one ever gets down on each other. They just pick each other up and keep going.”