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Southeast Missourian softball player of the year: Central junior Kadie Orenstein excels with quiet confidence
Kadie Orenstein is quiet by nature, but on the softball field she's calm by design.
"Sometimes it can be tough, especially in the close games or after giving up a good hit or two," the Central junior said. "It's not always easy, but I've learned that by keeping good composure, it helps you move on to what you need to be focusing on, which is the next pitch."
Orenstein did that well for the Tigers, which allowed her to bear almost all the workload in the circle this season while also starring at the plate. That's why she is the Southeast Missourian softball player of the year.
Orenstein started 22 of her team's 23 games and completed all but one of those contests. She racked up a 2.80 ERA in 137 1/3 innings pitched. She struck out 104 batters and walked 45.
"We have really, really worked on her composure on the mound," Central coach Amy Blattel said. "We always tell them, 'If you give up a home run, we do not call timeouts. That the pitcher just gets the ball and lets go again and shows no emotion.' So we've really worked on the showing no emotion on the mound no matter what."
Orenstein's mastery of that skill was on display during the Tigers' postseason run this past fall.
Central was seeded sixth and last in a balanced Class 4 District 1, but the Tigers romped to the title behind Orenstein's excellence. She pitched a two-hit shutout in a win over Farmington in the title game and was 2 for 3 with two walks and four RBIs in a semifinal win over Jackson. She also had two hits in an opening-round win and recorded the win all three games.
She did it all with a steely look on her face and without flinching.
"It was a great feeling," Orenstein said. "It's hard to describe, really. We had our ups and downs to the season, but coach Blattel always told us that until every person believes we can win a district championship -- when that happens, we will."
That storybook ending didn't look probable for much of the season as the Tigers hovered around the .500 mark, often losing close games late. Their final record was 11-12, but Blattel continued to hound her all team all season about the need to believe the best would happen.
"I remember one day after practice, after a few of those close losses, coach Blattel took us into our hallway with all the plaques of district champs," Orenstein said. "She pointed to the next space on the wall and she said, 'This space belongs to us. This space belongs to our plaque. Let's get it.' That was a big motivation for us. Our coaches always believed in us, and we really believed in each other."
Central had just two seniors on its roster, and no players on the team had been a part of a district title win.
"With this group of kids, they had never experienced a district championship," Blattel said. "We talked about it, but I don't think it ever really hit them that when you do win, you do leave a permanent mark because that's something you can claim for the rest of your life. You leave a permanent mark on the program. I don't think they'd ever really -- they'd thought about it and listened to the words I said, but I don't think it hit home until I showed them, 'This is where it's going to go.'"
A few days after earning that trophy, Central's season ended in heart-breaking fashion when it came within one out of advancing to the state quarterfinals.
Even at the game's lowest point, Oreinstein faced the next pitch and the next at-bat with the same outward composure she displayed during the highlights of the district victory.
"For her, it is being less hard on herself and accepting the fact that she's not going to be perfect every time out," Blattel said. "It's not allowing her pitching to affect her hitting and vice versa. I think that's something that we really talked about this year and really worked on. It's being able to handle the tough situations, you know, sectional game, one-run game -- being able to handle that situation."
Orenstein was perhaps even more impressive at the plate than in the circle.
She batted .421 on the season and had seven doubles and three triples. She collected 27 RBI, which was just shy of a quarter of her team's total for the season. She also scored 22 runs and struck out just three times all season.
"Over time, of course, I've gotten a lot better," said Orenstein, who started playing at age 8 and joined her first travel team at age 12. "I've looked for ways to improve. My mental approach is something that has not changed but improved over the years. I've also learned there's always something you can get better at. You'll never know everything you need to know about the game of softball."
Blattel is certain Orenstein will play collegiately. It's just a matter of where and at what level.
"One of our big goals for her coming in to this next season is to relax and play, because she is going to go to the next level," Blattel said. "It's going to happen, so she just needs to relax and play and allow things to just play themselves out and not apply the pressure to herself that she has to hit .400 to get there. She's going to get there."
She's also going to get better, Blattel said. Orenstein developed a riseball and curveball to go along with her fastball and changeup, and Blattel expects her control of those pitches to improve next season.
"I don't think she's anywhere near her potential," Blattel said. "I think what you're going to see is she's going to grow as a player, she's going to play at the next level, and I think you're going to see her improve even more at the next level when her focus is solely softball."
Blattel said now that her players have experienced some postseason success, they've set their sights higher -- a final four appearance.
"I think this past season is just going to be motivation for the next," Orenstein said. "We can't be satisfied with good, we have to be satisfied with better."
Whatever happens, Orenstein will be leading the way in her own, even-tempered way.
"She's the kid that if you told you had to run through that brick wall to win a game, then she would go and try to run through the brick wall or figure out a way to get through the brick wall," Blattel said. "And that's exactly what you want."'
Click here to view the complete all-Missourian softball team.