(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
BENTON -- After a one year absence in which they failed to get out of the Class 2 district tournament, the Kelly Lady Hawks once again find themselves closing in on a trip to the MSHSAA Show Me Showdown.
All that's left standing in their way is a quarterfinal contest this Saturday in which the Lady Hawks will face off against a hot-hitting Hartville Lady Eagles team that comes into the game with 19-5 record.
The matchup will bring up fond memories of 2010 for Lady Hawks' fans as Kelly traveled to Hartville and handed the Lady Eagles a 13-2 loss to advance to the Showdown, where they finished fourth.
This time, however, it will be the Lady Eagles making the nearly four-hour trek from Southwest Missouri as the Lady Hawks will have home-field advantage when play starts at 2 p.m.
While there is sure to be some familiar faces on both sides of the diamond, Kelly head coach Rhonda Ratledge expects to see a much different team than when they last met.
"Two years ago we're talking about freshman and sophomores who were there," said Ratledge said about Hartville. "In two years time they can definitely mature and they've played a lot of ball games between those two years."
So far this postseason, the Lady Eagles appear to have the edge offensively as they've put up 31 runs through three games for an average of just over 10 runs a game.
Though the Lady Hawks have only put up 17 runs during that same span, it was Tuesday's sectional game against Twin Rivers that their bats broke out for 14 hits in a 12-1 rout that leaves Kelly at 21-4 on the year.
Defensively both squads have allowed three runs and each boast a shutout.
"We've scouted them a little bit and we know a few things," Ratledge said of Hartville. "You have to do those things when you get to this point because nobody in this area plays that far away.
"They have hitters all the way up and down their lineup. I think they're a strong offensive team and from what I here, defensively, as well."
Ratledge hopes to see her girls put up the same kind of numbers they did against the Lady Royals when the top five of her order combined to go 12 of 17 at the plate with seven runs batted in, a double and a triple.
Hitting in those spots were leadoff hitter Samantha Ratledge, Morgan LeDure, Alexis Dock, Stephanie Worth and Jessica Worth.
"I hope we can come out and hit all the way up and down our lineup like we have been all season," Rhonda Ratledge said. "It's just going to be seeing which team shows up and is able to put those first couple runs across the plate some time.
"The girls have done a terrific job this year so we definitely have community support and I hope everybody can come out and watch."