When the state champion Blue Springs Wildcats returned home from St. Joseph late Saturday night – after becoming the first Missouri Class 4 softball team to complete an undefeated season – they were greeted with swirling police lights and cheering fans.

When the state champion Blue Springs Wildcats returned home from St. Joseph late Saturday night – after becoming the first Missouri Class 4 softball team to complete an undefeated season – they were greeted with swirling police lights and cheering fans.
“The Blue Springs Police Department was nice enough to give the girls a nice welcome back and escort them through town,” Blue Springs activities director Tom Round said.
“We were able to let the girls know about it in advance, so they could call and text their friends and family members. It really was the perfect way to wrap up the weekend.”
The 31-0 Wildcats experienced a roller-coaster ride of emotions at Heritage Park, where they overcame five errors in Friday’s 6-5, nine-inning semifinal win over Webb City  and then rebounded to claim an error-free 7-1 victory over Parkway South.
“It’s like I’ve told you all season,” Wildcats coach Roger Lower said, “this team is special. These girls are special. Tom and I were talking and he said all great teams usually win a game or two that they shouldn’t win.
“And that’s because the great teams find a way to win those games when they don’t play at their highest level.
“We found a way Friday night. I went back and looked at our scorebook and that was the first time we’d trailed in a game this year. The first time!”
The Wildcats trailed 3-0 when Amanda Self hit a two-run homer. The only time they led was in the bottom of the ninth inning when Mackenzie Sykes tied the game with a two-out, two-strike RBI single, stole second and scored the game-winning run on Jocelyn Price’s smash down the first-base line.
The winning pitcher in each of those games was freshman Kelsey Kessler, who finished the season with a 30-0 record, three perfect games and eight no-hitters.
She threw a three-hit gem in the championship game and allowed just two earned runs in the semifinal contest.
“Kelsey’s not used to giving up any runs,” said Self, the senior catcher and one of the team leaders. “When they scored those three runs, I talked with her in the dugout after the inning, got her settled down and she goes out and strikes out 4-5-6.
“We didn’t do much to help her (defensively), but we came through with the big hits when we needed them. I think Kelsey deserves a lot of credit, because Friday, her confidence was shaken. But she finished that game strong and was the same old Kelsey in the championship game.”
Big hits, defensive gems and just plain guts helped the Wildcats reach perfection.
“Just look at this weekend,” said Lower, who has led the Wildcats to three state championships (1996, 1999 and this year). “We overcome the errors and win with two, two-out hits; (center fielder) Lauren Eisenreich throws out a base runner, and so does (right fielder) Anna Cole; Kelsey pitches a great game in the championship game and shows what she’s made of in the semifinals; and Cole breaks up a double play with her head when we’re leading 7-1 in fifth inning.”
Huh?
Cole refused to slide into second, using her head and shoulder to block a throw to first base, enabling Kaylea Smith to reach the base safely.
Cole went down like she’d been shot, but she soon bounced back up and stayed in the game.
The ball hit her shoulder and bounced off her head.
“If it would have just hit her in the head she’d have been fine,” joked Lower, “because that’s the hardest part of her body – just ask her mom and dad. But seriously, that’s the type of player and kid she is.
“She wasn’t about to come out of the game. Look at Jocey, we think she might have a broken finger (the result of fielding a short-hp throw at first base) and she gets the game-winning hit Friday and hits a homer Saturday.”
Price, who refused to get medical treatment because, “I was afraid the doctor would say I couldn’t play,” shrugged off the injury.
“It could have happened to any girl on the team – and none of us would have missed a game,” Price said. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We won state! That sounds so good!”