Blue Springs found a way to play through the pain. Again.
Injuries have riddled the Wildcats this season, according to Blue Springs softball coach Jim Brandner. The latest instance of the injury bug biting the Wildcats was this past weekend, when they hosted the Blue Springs Invitational. But they managed their injuries well enough to go undefeated and win the six-team pool play competition, which began Friday and concluded Saturday at Hidden Valley Park.
“It took 15 kids for us to field a lineup all the way through five games,” Brandner said shortly after the Wildcats had capped their championship run in the round-robin tournament Saturday afternoon by defeating Kearney 8-3. “Everybody played. Everybody played a role.”
Whenever there’s an injury, “a new kid steps up,” Brandner said.
One Wildcat who stepped up over the weekend because of an injury was freshman Bre Barchak, who filled in for senior pitching ace Reggie Kanagawa. Kanagawa was limited to batting Saturday after suffering a minor injury Friday in a motor vehicle accident.
“She thought she’d be able to go, so we warmed her up this morning,” Brandner said. “And she told us right away her back was too sore. I think she’ll be fine. It just was a muscle thing.”
Barchak, who also pitched one game Friday, pitched Blue Springs’ two Saturday games. First, she led the Wildcats to an 11-1, six-inning victory over Park Hill South. Barchak then allowed six hits and struck out five during the win over Kearney.
Some underclassmen might have been nervous about subbing for an NCAA Division I-bound pitcher such as Kanagawa. Barchak wasn’t.
“I knew that I had a good defense and offense behind me,” she said.
Those who backed up Barchak offensively against Kearney included Payton Minnis, Taylor Snead and Bella Andrews. Minnis and Andrews each collected three hits. Snead swatted a three-run, second-inning home run. Andrews attributed Blue Springs’ ability to generate offense in the tournament finale to Minnis providing her usual spark as the team’s leadoff batter.
“Once Payton gets a hit, everybody after her just keeps going,” Andrews said.
Minnis also helped get the Wildcats going offensively in their 6-5 tournament-opening win Friday morning over Fort Zumwalt West, going 2-for-4. Kanagawa also went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. In addition, Kanagawa pitched a complete game, striking out nine, spreading seven hits and walking two.
Andrews helped drive the Wildcats to their 4-1 victory over Webb City Friday afternoon, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Minnis went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Barchak threw a complete game, spreading seven hits, striking out five and walking five.
Hallie Walls went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored to lead Blue Springs to a 15-10, five-inning win over St. Joseph Central in the Wildcats’ other Friday game. Andrews went 2-for-3 with a walk, three RBIs and three runs scored. Kanagawa pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief for the win.
By following up Friday’s victories with their wins over Park Hill South and Kearney Saturday, Blue Springs (18-5 entering Monday’s game with Lee’s Summit) capped a tournament that Andrews, Barchak and Brandner agreed was characterized by the Wildcats’ desire to play for one another.
“I think we played like we were a family,” Andrews said. “We were all together.”