Area softball teams begin quest for state titles

Wednesday, October 6, 2004
Kelly senior Whitney Beggs, right, has thrown one perfect game and combined with senior Kelly Essner for another. Essner has hurled a third perfect game for the Hawks.

Sporting perhaps the two top pitchers in the area, Kelly is looking to take its veteran softball squad deep into the playoffs after falling in the Class 2 quarterfinals last season.

Kelly (18-6) is the top seed heading into Thursday's Class 2 District 1 tournament at St. Vincent. The Hawks will play at 4 p.m. against the winner of the Crystal City-East Prairie game.

"They're ready. They have a positive attitude about it," Kelly coach Rhonda Ratledge said of her team. "They know they can do it. They're very capable of doing it."

Whitney Beggs and Kelly Essner combine to make one scary duo on the mound for the Hawks, with each pitcher throwing perfect games this season. They also combined for a third perfect game on Monday against Jackson. Beggs and Essner also provide solid punch from the batters box.

"We do have a good foundation that we've focused on," Ratledge said of Beggs and Essner. "We talk to the girls about not riding on your pitcher's coattails."

Along with strong pitching, the Hawks are sound with their gloves and bats. Players such as Mindy Robert, Jessica Burnett and Rachel Kline provide strong leadership in the field and in the batters box.

"The girls behind the pitcher-- defense-wise --have been awesome. Offensively we're putting it in play; we don't strike out often," Ratledge said.

Another thing Kelly has going for it is a winning tradition. The Hawks have won 17 district championships in the past 18 years and have reached the state final four eight times. Kelly also owns the only softball state championship in the area, with Ratledge leading the Hawks to a state title in 1997.

"You still have butterflies," Ratledge said. "You want to take these girls to experience it, too. As a coach, you have to be at the top of your game."

Bulldogs look for playoffs

Notre Dame is looking to rebound after failing to win its district last season. After back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 2001 and 2002, the Bulldogs fell in the district semifinals last season with a senior-laiden group.

Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said last season the team may have overlooked the district tournament.

"I think we had our sights set too high last year," he said.

Fielding a lineup swelled with sophomores and freshmen this season, the young Bulldogs have not skipped a beat. With seniors Alana Weissmueller, Whitney Ostendorf and Sarah Scherer providing the leadership, Notre Dame has compiled an 18-6 record heading into the Class 3 District 1 tournament at Herculaneum.

Notre Dame drew the top seed and will get a first-round bye. The Bulldogs will face the winner of the St. Pius-Festus game Friday in the semifinals.

"It's a pretty tough district," Graviett said. "It will be a tough task for our girls."

The Bulldogs' success this season has been tied to steady defense. Sophomores Beth Schnurbusch, Miranda Schlosser and Kristain Burger have led the staff.

"We've got three pretty good pitchers. I will not hesitate to use all three," Graviett said.

Jackson and Central get under way today

The Class 4 District 1 tournament will get under way today at Jackson with both Jackson and Central in action. Fifth-seeded Jackson will face Sikeston at 4 p.m., while Central carries the sixth and final seed and will play Farmington at 5:30 p.m.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: