Avery Huffman isn’t much larger than the softball bat she swings with such ferocity.
The Grain Valley High School freshman starred at the plate and on the mound in a wild Greater Kansas City Invitational Gold Bracket third-place game that the Eagles won 18-12 over Pleasant Hill.
As Eagles activities director Brandon Hart tweeted after the game, “No, that is not a football score,” although it resembled one as the Eagles cracked 21 hits – including a three-run homer and RBI triple by Huffman.
Huffman’s parents missed her homer and triple as they were in Blue Springs watching her brother, Wyatt, a sophomore member of the first Grain Valley boys swim team, win the 500-yard freestyle against big-time programs like Blue Springs, Blue Springs South and Raymore-Peculiar.
“I’m not unhappy they missed my home run,” said Huffman, who hit the ball over the Green-Monsterish 22-high foot fence in left field of Field 4 at Adair Park and into the stream that runs through the complex, “because it was Wyatt’s first swim meet. They should have been there watching him.”
When asked if she could hit a ball any harder than her 220-foot blast, she grinned and said, “I’ve hit a lot of balls harder than that.”
Which is good news for first-year Eagles softball coach Garrett Ogle, the son of former William Chrisman High School baseball coach and activities director Dan Ogle.
“Today, you saw the present and the future of the Grain Valley softball program,” said Ogle, whose team finished 4-1 in the season-opening tournament. “We have a lot of young kids who are really going to make an impact on the program and some veteran players who will play a key role, too.”
The offensive explosion couldn’t have come at a better time as the Eagles were blanked 6-0 by Raymore-Peculiar’s Cameron Stichel in a championship bracket semifinal earlier Wednesday.
“That pitcher from Ray-Pec is one of the best we’ve seen,” Ogle said. “I told the girls to forget about that loss and get ready for the third-place game, and they did.”
Ogle fired up his team in the bottom of the first inning of the third-place game when he got into an argument with the home plate umpire, who overturned an out call at third base that led to a four-run outburst for the Chicks.
“We scored four runs in the top of the inning and they come back and score four and I think I was justified in discussing the call with the home plate umpire,” Ogle said. “I think it kind of fired up the girls. I didn’t do it for that reason, but if it did fire them up, all the better.”
The Eagles tallied five runs in the second inning, with Huffman’s three-run homer the key hit. The Chicks answered with three runs to make it 9-7.
Because of a 1 1/2-hour time limit, the game ended after just four innings. Leading 18-11, Ogle brought Huffman in to relieve Kasey Kilburn. The Panthers loaded the bases and scored a run before Huffman struck out Shelby Jack and got Allee Bratin on a groundout to short.
Eagles leadoff hitter Kate Arnold scored four runs, and reached base on two hits, a walk and an error. Malia Gutierrez added two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored; Morgan Robinson had a double, two singles, an RBI and two runs scored; Bri Carter had two doubles, a single and two runs scored; BriLeigh Sims had three singles, a bases-loaded walk, four RBIs and two runs scored; and Keely Hill had an RBI double and run scored.
“Every girl who played tonight contributed,” Ogle said. “I’m really proud of them and now it’s time to start our first Suburban Conference season. We’re ready.”