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Backfisch provides leadership at the top of Hawks' lineup
ST. JOSEPH — Kelly junior leadoff hitter Londyn Backfisch was nervous during her first at-bat against Palmyra in the Class 2 championship game.
Why not be nervous? She was facing pitcher Taylor Baxter, who has not allowed an earned run while surrendering just 10 hits in five pervious final four games.
But Backfisch did not look nervous. She drilled Baxter's first pitch into center field for a single. She then quickly stole second base. Right after that, she stole third.
"When she went up that first time, she was so nervous," Kelly coach Rhonda Ratledge said. "So nervous. ... I said, 'Have fun, get in there and just whack that ball.' And I did not hardly see that first pitch. But it just flew out to center field. I was like 'Oh, my gosh.' So she had fun."
Backfisch was left at third base as Baxter struck out the next three batters and Palmyra ended up winning 5-1 to claim its third-straight title.
Still, Backfisch's performance Saturday confirmed to Ratledge that she has a solid leadoff hitter.
She showed that despite Kelly losing six important starting seniors from this year's team, the offense remains in good shape because Backfisch sets the table in that leadoff spot.
The junior had two of her team's three hits and knocked in her team's only run of the game.
"Holy cow, right off the bat [she hit] a line drive to center field and stole second base," Ratledge said. "First pitch. And that really set the mood right there because she stole second, was safe, stole third, was safe, and what a fantastic player. She is just a good all-around athlete. I just hate to see her be a senior [next year]."
Backfisch had a strong year in the leadoff spot. She hit .359 with two homers, 10 RBIs and 41 stolen bases through districts.
Backfisch said the seniors — who she went to state with for the past three years — will be missed greatly. She said they helped her become the player she is today.
"I'm going to miss the seniors so much," Backfisch said. "I'm not crying about having second. I love second. I'd much rather have first. I'm sad because I won't be able to play with these girls anymore. They taught me so much. I'm a junior now. I learned how to be a leader. They taught me really good qualities and how to teach my future underclassmen and stuff, so they've really taught me a lot."
Senior Casey Kern said the team will be in good shape next year with Backfisch leading off.
"She keeps the opposing teams not knowing what's going on," Kern said. "She can slap, she can bunt, she can hit. She does a little bit of it all."
Backfisch likely will be the Hawks' leader and likely will need to continue the type of play she showed Saturday if Kelly wants to get back to state next year.
Ratledge said Backfisch already has started to embrace the leadership role.
"This year she started coming out of her shell a little bit," Ratledge said. "And she was a little more talkative and she had a little more fun and was relaxed."