Notre Dame sophomore Lauren Reinagel said her best performance during her first varsity season came at the Jackson Invitational, when she pitched four games in one day, winning every one.
Reinagel's dominance was the main reason the Bulldogs won that tournament for the first time in school history. Afterward she declared her arm felt just fine.
"It still doesn't hurt," she said, smiling in between celebrating with her teammates.
Reinagel, who had numerous dominant outings from which to choose her best, is this year's Southeast Missourian Player of the Year.
The sophomore hurler posted a 28-1 record, a 0.55 ERA and set a school record with 253 strikeouts. Her 179 innings pitched was a Bulldogs record and her 28 wins in a season tied her for second all-time in Missouri.
Entering the season, Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett was concerned most about pitching, after graduating two talented starters from the previous year's squad.
But Graviett and all the Notre Dame players soon realized pitching would become the least of their worries.
Reinagel, who earned all-state first-team honors, led the Bulldogs to an undefeated regular season and a third-place finish in Class 3.
"She was under a lot of pressure, but she did really, really well," Bulldogs senior Heather Menz said. "I was very proud of her. We had a tournament and she pitched four games in one day, and that was pretty impressive. She's really, really good."
Reinagel had a number of strong stretches throughout the season.
She went the first nine games without allowing an earned run before finally surrendering one in the bottom of the third inning of her 10th game.
Reinagel also tossed five no hitters -- three of them in a row. She recorded two in the final two games of the regular season and the third one came during her first taste of postseason action, a 14-0 district win over Ste. Genevieve.
"It's really fun having her on the team," Lauren's second cousin and center fielder Erika Reinagel said. "She played with us in the summer and we're all from the little town of Kelso, so we all got along. I don't think she was too nervous coming up."
The Bulldogs' perfect season -- and Reinagel's perfect record -- ended when Webb City beat Notre Dame 3-0 in the semifinals of the Class 3 state tournament.
Reinagel said the nerves kicked in as the season progressed.
"First game I was really nervous, but I was also really excited," she said. "I couldn't wait for the season to start and I kept using that throughout the whole year. In the postseason I got a lot more nervous and more excited."
Menz said Reinagel could be even better next year if she relaxes more.
"She just needs to stay confident, and that's pretty much it, I guess," Menz said. "She just needs to stay relaxed and not get stressed out during the games when she is not doing well."
Working to improve
Reinagel already has begun to prepare for next season.
She practices her pitching at Notre Dame a couple of days each week, and she attended softball camps on a few weekends.
She has been working on everything from her best pitch -- her rise ball -- to improving her form and developing new pitches.
"I'm trying to work on my technique," she said. "I've learned how to do a drop ball, but it's not there. I'm working on it, but who knows.
"I've been trying to get better. There are a lot of pitchers there [at the camps], and I'm not that good. They are really fast and they are really consistent."
Reinagel said Webb City pitcher Nicole Hudson, who out-dueled her in the semifinals, will return next year as a senior. So to get past her, she will have to work hard. And she already has mapped out her goals.
She said she not only wants to beat Hudson and Webb City, but she also wants to compile better statistics than she did this season.
"I really want to try to beat myself," she said, discussing the records she's already set. "I think it's going to be kind of hard. I want to beat myself."
Here is the entire all-Southeast Missourian softball team roster: