In a rematch of the Class 3 District 16 softball championship, Savannah once again came out on top over Smithville on Saturday at Drake Field, and for coach Ashley Anderson, this one meant much more.
In December of 2018, Anderson lost her father to cancer. On Saturday, her team earned a district championship and defeated the Warriors 2-1.
“He was my coach growing up,” Anderson said. “Just the path that we’re on, he’s just right there, and I can feel it. It’s just really special.”
It was a special day for all of Savannah’s squad, especially for junior pitcher Kenzie Schopfer, who struck out 16 batters on the day. Despite a home run given up to Smithville (17-11) senior Skylar Brooks to lead off the first inning, Schopfer was untouchable. The spirit Schopfer brought to the mound ignited Anderson and the rest of the team.
“For her, it’s just fuel,” Anderson said. “That gives her more momentum, and then everybody feeds off of that. She’s just a machine. I don’t meet a lot of kids like her that like that challenge. She steps up everytime.”
As for Schopfer’s dominant performance, Anderson wasn’t surprised.
“Not to sound conceited, or not to give her any extra credit, but that’s normal for her,” Anderson said. “That’s how she plays every game. That’s how many she strikes out every game. It’s just our normal routine. In fact, we had a ball actually hit shortstop today, we don’t see that very often. She just takes care of everything.”
An optimistic team attitude was the key for Savages according to Schopfer, and Savannah delivered even stronger than they did during Thursday’s semifinal win over Excelsior Springs.
“It was super energetic, and we just wanted to win really badly, so just tried to stay up,” Schopfer said. “Our goal coming into this game was to be more energetic than we were Thursday, so I think we did that.”
While Schopfer was on her A-game, so was Smithville junior pitcher Makaela Carr, as Carr struck out 18 batters of her own. While the Warriors were feeling just as fired up thanks to Carr’s strong outing, Schopfer took their fire and used it to charge herself up.
“I always try to be better than the other pitcher, so that definitely kept me going,” Schopfer said.
A key moment came in the bottom of the second inning when Schopfer struck out Smithville senior Chloe Williams with junior base runner Adison Callahan stuck on third base.
Shortly after that, sophomore Ella Bruner took Carr deep to centerfield for a game-tying home run in the top of the fourth inning. Flash forward to the seventh inning, Savannah found itself with a 2-1 lead thanks to a clutch home run to centerfield by junior Maddie Graves.
Once the Warriors fell to their final three outs, Schopfer was lights out and struck out the side.
Savannah (17-2) takes on Kirksville (12-9) this Wednesday at a location to be determined.