At the start of the softball season, things looked good for Purdy High School.

The Lady Eagles had senior left-hander Megan Leonard and she started out the season on fire.

Then she was hit by a pitch on Aug. 28 and broke a bone in her wrist. The good news was it was a clean crack and never swelled up, allowing her to get treatment easily.

But the regular season continued and Purdy lost some games and won some games. On Sept. 28, 10 days before the district started, Leonard got her cast off.

"They took her cast off on a Tuesday and she threw on Thursday," said Purdy coach Lori Videmschek. "She didn't lose very much muscle, which was key."

So, when the district tournament was delayed a day by rain, Purdy was forced to play two games Saturday instead of a game Friday and a game Saturday.

No problem for Leonard.

The Lady Eagles beat Lamar 3-2 on a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh. Then the Purdy offense gave Leonard a bit of a lead early in turning back McAuley Catholic 6-2 in the title game.

It was a bit of payback for the Lady Eagles. McAuley won the Ozark 7 title by rallying at home earlier in the season, with Leonard sitting on the bench. The two wins got Purdy to the .500 mark at 9-9.

In the two district games, Leonard struck out 27 and walked eight. She threw 250 pitches 12 days after getting her cast off.

"She got a little tired late in that second game," Videmschek said. "But she kept in pretty good shape."

While Leonard was injured, some other players stepped forward. Junior Christie Gray was named player of the year in the conference. Seniors Bobbi Houston, Michelle Aldridge (who drew the walk to win the district semifinal) and Chelsea Swadley were named to the all-conference first team and classmate Jordan Craig was an honorable mention.

"Megan was like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle," Videmschek said. "Without her, our defense has had to play better because people were getting hits because Megan's a strikeout pitcher.

"Now, our defense is better, our offense is better. You could just tell we were better."

Purdy, after holding the district, was to play host today to Pleasant Hope in the Class 2 Sectional 4 game. That game, because of the recent relentless sprinkle around the area, has been pushed back to 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Purdy.

But McAuley fans do have something to look forward to because the Lady Warriors don't have a senior on the team this year. Four juniors - Emily Sonaty, Whitney Schroer, Amanda Tinney and Katie Tinney - were first team all-conference and classmate Courtney Bobski and freshman Kristin Wilmes were honorable mention.

And Ann Stearnes, who came out of retirement this year to coach the Lady Warriors, was named coach of the year in the league.

New position

There's a new position in softball this year, and it's enough to make a scorekeeper pull his or her hair out.

The position is called the flex. One coach explained the flex as a player that can play at any position.

That's OK, but if one player can move to any position, doesn't another player have to move, too. Throw in the fact that you can re-enter just about any player and keeping track of players becomes a nightmare.

If any coach can better explain this, I'm all ears.

Address correspondence to Jim Fryar, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, Mo. 64802.

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