After Blue Springs softball coach Jim Brandner’s postgame speech following Wednesday’s game against Kearney, there was one more item of business for the Wildcats.
They all sang “Happy Birthday” to first baseman Taylor Snead.
And what a birthday it was.
Snead was 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored as Blue Springs posted its sixth straight win – in which it scored double digits in each – in a 11-4 non-conference blowout of Kearney at Coen Field.
“A win is a celebration enough,” Snead said.
The Wildcats already have already doubled the amount of games in which they scored 10 or more runs from last season and Snead has been a big part of that.
“She’s not a typical two-hole hitter,” Brandner said. “She could be a No. 3 hitter or a 4. But it worked. She was second on the team in runs and RBIs (last season). She’s probably leading the team in both of those categories this year. If it isn’t broke, I am not going to fix it.”
She set the tone for Blue Springs in the first inning when she singled, stole second despite getting a late jump, stole third and scored on a throw from the catcher that got away from a Kearney infielder.
“We put a lot of pressure on them with our base running and I think they broke,” Brandner said. “And it created problems for them, which led to extra outs in an inning, leading to a double-digit score.”
The Bulldogs scored one run in the second on Sierra Culler’s home run to deep center field and two in the third to take a 3-1 lead off Blue Springs freshman pitcher Breana Barchak.
But in the bottom half of the third inning, Snead gave the Wildcats (6-1) another shot in the arm they needed. She turned on an inside pitch and blasted a no-doubt two-run homer over the right-field wall to tie the game.
In addition to hitting a home run on her birthday, Snead had also hit a grand slam on her mother’s birthday last weekend in the Joplin Tournament.
“I hope her dad has a birthday coming up soon,” Brandner joked.
Leadoff hitter Peyton Minnis was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored to help spark the Blue Springs offense. Maddy Lavelle gave Blue Springs the lead when she got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Minnis, normally a slap hitter, stayed still, planted her feet and drilled a two-run single to center field before a Snead sacrifice fly made it 8-4 in the fourth.
“She had runners in scoring position and she has as good of a swing as anyone in Kansas City,” Brandner said of Minnis. “I am not exaggerating. When she has runners in scoring position, I tell her to set her feet and drive the ball. She doesn’t have to slap. She can absolutely mash the ball.”
Added Minnis: “I was looking middle in or middle out, and I got it every at-bat, so I took advantage of that.”
Blue Springs added three more in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run double to the right-center field gap from No. 7 hitter Kaylee Smith.
Brandner admits that his offense looks much better than last season, but he expects things to get a little tougher for the bats with the Suburban Big Seven schedule starting today at Lee’s Summit North.
“We haven’t faced the pitching that’s going to slow that down,” Brandner said of the offensive output. “We play Lee’s Summit North next and you’re not going to see double-digit runs in that one. We benefited from not seeing the best Big Seven pitching. Now we’re going to see it. We’re going to have to adjust and we know it’s going to be a dog fight.
“We have improved from last year. We’ve got some new kids who didn’t play last year (Audrey Corona and Hallie Walls). Audrey was injured last year and came back. Hallie didn’t come out last year. Those two spots in the lineup we improved offensively.”
Added Minnis: “We have a better plan this year. We’re all waiting for our pitches and not just swinging at what the pitcher wants us to.”