A standing-room-only crowd, an undefeated opponent and starting the home opener for the Grain Valley softball team did not faze freshman Hailey Hemme.
The 14-year-old stood tall on the mound Monday afternoon as she blanked Fort Osage 7-0, allowing just six singles and striking out seven, including striking out the side in the top of the sixth inning.
“We look really strong on the mound for the next few years,” Eagles coach Garrett Ogle said after his team improved to 5-1. “We have two No. 1 pitchers – Hailey, who is a freshman, and Avery Huffman, a sophomore.
“They play year-round and have played in big tournaments all over the country, so they aren’t going to be fazed by the big crowd today.”
Huffman, the Eagles’ cleanup hitter, was on base four times and scored three runs. She had a hit, was walked intentionally and used her speed to force errant throws by Indian infielders on her other at-bats.
“It’s so much fun to watch young kids do what Hailey and Avery did today,” Ogle said. “We won our division of the Greater Kansas City Softball Tournament (finishing 4-1), had a week off, then we play an undefeated team from a bigger class today and get a shutout win. We’ll take it!”
After striking out the Indians leadoff hitter, Alysa Garlock stroked a single and advanced to third on a passed ball and infield out. Emma James then walked and took second without a throw, but Hemme came up with her second strikeout of the inning to pitch out of the jam.
“If I make a bad pitch or someone gets on base, that just inspires me to work harder and make a better pitch to the next batter,” Hemme said. “When I wasn’t on the mound, I wanted to keep the energy high in the dugout. I love pitching in front of a big crowd and having the excitement of our opening game. The girls really did a great job supporting me today – at the plate and in the field.”
While the young players got it done, a senior turned one of her top performances. Senior leadoff hitter Keely Hill had a double, three singles and an RBI.
“It’s so cool to have a great game like this with a big crowd,” Hill said. “We really wanted to come and score some runs because we know how well Hailey can pitch. Our pitching is really going to be a strength this year.”
While the Eagles collected 14 hits, they made the Indians pay for all six errors, as five of Grain Valley’s seven runs were unearned.
“In games like this, you have to take something positive away from it, you have to learn a lesson, and today we learned that a good game can get out of hand if you make errors. And we made way too many errors today,” Fort Osage coach Kelly Sullivan said after the Indians fell to 3-1.
Garlock had two hits for Fort Osage and Olivia White and Malia Gutierrez had two hits each for Grain Valley.