GODFREY — Ask L&C softball coach Ronda Roberts about her team’s personality, and you’re likely to see a big grin. That attitude might just be perfect in the Trailblazers coach’s eyes.
That’s because it probably reminds her of her own. Call it a perfect persona.
“They like to have a lot of fun before the game,” Roberts said. They play a little music, dance a little, sing a little.
“But once the game starts, they can focus. They play better when they’re loose.”
They’ve been loose enough to run their record to 18-14.
At the midpoint of the season, it’s still a bit of a work in progress, but not as much as it had been, according to Roberts.
“We have a lot of newer faces on the team,” Roberts said, “and it sometimes takes a while to get everybody working together. But I like our players’ approach.”
Two of the Trailblazers’ spotlighted newcomers are pitchers Hannah Rexford from Roxana and Sydney Henrichs from Gillespie. Two of the area’s top performers last season as high-school seniors, they’ve made the adjustment quite well to pitching in the JUCO pitchers circle.
“They’re both doing a fantastic job,” Roberts said. “Sydney didn’t pitch this past fall (in off-season workouts and practice contests), but they’re both doing really well. They’re both the kind of pitcher that wants the ball.”
Prior to a doubleheader sweep Wednesday at Mineral Area College, each had eight complete games. Henrichs was 7-5 with a save and Rexford was 7-7.
“With Hannah, you can really see the competitiveness,” Roberts said with a chuckle. “Sydney is just as competitive, but she masks it a little better. The rest of the team can feel that energy from them and that has helped.”
Add to Rexford and Henrichs sophomores Kaylee Hefley and Bethany Muenstermann, and Roberts said she’s got a solid pitching corps.
Hefley was 2-2 prior to the MAC games. Muenstermann, who also plays first base and shortstop, was 0-0 with three saves.
Other first-year players who’ve drawn attention include a pair of infielders, Lauren Meadows from Bond County High School and Allison Beckman from Breese Mater Dei.
Meadows, who’s played solidly at shortstop and batted leadoff, is hitting .385 with a home run, four triples and three doubles and 13 RBIs. Beckman is batting .356 with a triple and six doubles and 10 RBIs.
“She’s got good speed and she’s can get you a double if you need it or lay down a bunt,” Roberts said. “Plus, she’s got a good head on her shoulders and has an all-around good game.”
Beckman stepped in and filled in early in the season for sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Cooper, who suffered a fractured finger on the spring training trip.
“(Beckman) did a really good job,” Roberts said. “She showed she’s someone we can rely on.”
Besides her contributions in the pitchers circle, Muenstermann has emerged as the Trailblazers’ leader.
“(Muenstermann) is our rock,” Roberts said of the sophomore from Jersey. “Wee look to her to produce and she always does. Last year and this year, she’s been unbelievable offensively and defensively.”
Muenstermann is hitting .511 with four home runs, five doubles and 38 RBIs. She’s only struck out six times in 94 at-bats.
Other returnees include Cooper, outfielder Megan Pfeiffer, infielder Abby Palen, and outfielder MacKenzie Masters.
“Its tough to really pick out one, two or even three,” Roberts said. “This group is filled with players who step up and contribute.”
Roberts said that since Cooper’s return, the sophomore from Peoria Limestone High School has looked strong.
“She’s having the fractured finger checked (Friday), but everything is looking fine.”
Cooper has 11 hits since returning, including a pair of doubles.
Pfeiffer, from Edwardsville, is hitting 2.74 with four RBIs. Palen, from Roxana High, is batting .343 with a home run, five doubles and 18 RBIs and Masters, from Rolla, Missouri, is batting .265 with two doubles.
“(Pfeiffer) has good speed and can make some amazing defensive plays,” Roberts said. “She gets rid of the ball quick.”
Roberts said the Trailblazers have arrived at a critical point of the season.
“We’re at the point in the season when other teams will be getting their second look at our freshman pitchers, Rexford and Henrichs,” she said, “so we’ll see how everybody reacts.”
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