Taylor Snead is the heartbeat of the Blue Springs softball team.
She also has the heart of her boyfriend Nick Brandner, the son of softball head coach Jim Brandner.
If Snead keeps on hitting like she did Wednesday, Jim Brandner joked that Nick would still want to date her.
The senior was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs, including a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, to help Blue Springs advance to the semifinals of the Class 4 District 13 Tournament following a 9-3 first-round win over Fort Osage at Legacy Park.
The Wildcats (15-14) will play No. 1 seed Lee’s Summit North at 4:30 p.m. today.
“She’s been first or second in hits or RBIs for us for three years now. She dates my son, and when my wife asks what kind of kid is she, I say she is second on the team in runs scored and runs, so I kind of have a crush on her,” Brandner said with a laugh.
“(Nick Brandner and Snead) have been dating for a couple of years now. If she keeps hitting, maybe he will keep dating her, I don’t know.”
Snead, who is hitting over .400 this season, got things started in the bottom of the first when she singled, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on Audrey Corona’s suicide squeeze bunt. She drove in a pair of runs in the second when she blasted a triple in the right-center field gap to score Presley Ziegenbein and Talia Pfeifer, making it 3-0. Fort Osage scored two runs in the third inning and one in the fourth to tie it.
In the bottom of the fourth, Pfeifer drew a two-out walk and stole second. Fort Osage decided to pitch to Snead with a runner in scoring position, and she made the Indians pay when she singled on a sharp line drive to center field to put her team ahead 4-3.
“I have been looking forward to this game all week and I brought energy to the game, and good things happened,” Snead said.
Two Blue Springs players who weren’t expecting to be in the position they currently are with the team had a big hand in the victory. Ziegenbein, a freshman shortstop who didn’t start until halfway through the season, helped the Wildcats score some key insurance runs in the final two innings.
Ziegenbein hit a short hopper up the middle and Fort Osage shortstop Savannah Short couldn’t come up with with the ball on a dive, which resulted in an RBI infield single, giving Blue Springs a 5-3 edge.
In the sixth, Ziegenbein blooped a two-out, two-run single to right to finish the day with three hits. The hit was a part of a four-run inning.
“I go out there and not worry about making mistakes. I just go out there and do what I do,” Ziegenbein said.
Ziegenbein has been one of the better hitters for the Wildcats and got her initial opportunity because of an injury to another player.
“Laney Anderson tore her labrum and we lost her for the season,” Brandner said. “Presley came up and has got big hits. She squares the ball up and moves it around. She hits it all over the field and drives in a lot of runs for us.”
Abby Kinzler was also in an unexpected position. She anticipated being a position player coming into the season, but Brandner decided to use her as a pitcher during a blowout loss against Lee’s Summit West about halfway through the season. She pitched well and has since been in the rotation with Bre Barchak, who pitched three no-hit innings to get the save. Kinzler got the win after surrendering three runs on five hits and striking out three.
“It’s been great,” Kinzler said of her season. “I am having a lot of fun with the girls, and I am having fun pitching, too.”
Added Brandner: “We found out Abby can be a dominant pitcher also. It takes both of them (Kinzler and Barchak) to win. It’s nice to be able to mix it up and have them as our 1-2. One throws a really good rise ball and the other has a good drop ball.”
Fort Osage ended its season at 16-10 and will say goodbye to seven seniors who helped the Indians share a Suburban Middle Seven Conference championship with Belton and Oak Park.
“I thought our girls fought really well and didn’t give up,” Indians head coach Kelly Sullivan said. “Blue Springs is a good hitting team.
“It’s been a while since we had a winning season. We were co-conference champions and that was outstanding for us. I told them I was proud of them.”
Senior catcher Chloe Harris paced the Indian offense with a two-run double. Olivia Peters was the losing pitcher after giving up five runs on 10 hits and striking out three in five innings.
LEE’S SUMMIT 11, GRAIN VALLEY 1: Grain Valley ended its season at 17-11 overall after a six-inning, mercy-rule loss to the Tigers in Wednesday’s other Class 4 District 13 first-round game.
Grain Valley and Lee’s Summit were tied 1-1 after one inning before the Tigers scored 10 unanswered runs.
“Lee’s Summit is very talented and their record (6-18) had no indication of what type of team they were,” Grain Valley head coach Garrett Ogle said. “They played a very tough schedule and they are getting hot at the right time.
“We struggled to adjust but we played really well. We really did. I was just a tough day for us.”
Mikayla Chairez, Keely Hill and Morgan Robinson each had a hit for the Eagles. Avery Huffman suffered the loss.
Lee's Summit advances to a 4:30 p.m. semifinal today against No. 2 seed Blue Springs South (17-6).