SERGEANT BLUFF — At first, East High School sophomore Brylee Hempey didn’t think she hit the ball very hard on Wednesday night at Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
It turned out her high fly ball to left field was plenty deep.
Hempey led off the second game of a Missouri River doubleheader against the Warriors with a lead-off home run that she didn’t think was a homer at first. SB-L, by the way, won 10-2 in Game 2 to complete the sweep.
Hempey worked a deep count against Warriors pitcher Abby Lewis, and with two strikes on her, Hempey lifted a fly ball to left field, and she ran like it was going to fall in for a hit.
When Hempey got to second base, she stopped. She turned to look at Black Raiders coach Bubba Malenosky, who was signaling the home run sign to Hempey.
Hempey ran the final 120 feet with a smile on her face, as that was her fourth career homer as a member of the Black Raiders.
“It was pretty nice, and I thought (SB-L left fielder Addie Brown) caught it,” Hempey said. “I just went home and I wasn’t expecting it though. I thought it was just a pop-up. It felt like it was a hard hit.”
Hempey smiled when asked whether hitting a home run ever gets old, and said it was an amazing feeling when she gets a hold of a pitch.
Hempey leads the Black Raiders with a .538 batting average and 14 hits. Evie Larson leads the team with eight RBIs in the 2-7 start.
That’s something the Black Raiders hope to experience more in the final weeks of the softball season. That doesn’t mean hitting home runs, necessarily, but Malenosky has been pleased to see the bats come alive as of late.
“Tonight, you saw that we hit the ball hard at people,” Malenosky said. “I wasn’t upset with how we did offensively at all. I have kids who are starting to swing it. … (Brylee) has always gotten it going, but I need someone else to get it going.”
The Black Raiders opened the season by scoring 15 runs against Western Christian, then scored a combined 26 runs on Tuesday against West.
In Game 1 on Wednesday night, the Black Raiders scored five runs off Kenzie Foley, who entered Thursday’s doubleheader at Bishop Heelan with a 0.25 ERA. Foley has allowed one earned run out of the 10 total runs.
“I think we’re hitting consistently, which is a change from last year,” Hempey said. “I just think we’re making good hits, but they’re just making plays. We’re definitely hitting the ball hard, and that’s where we want to be.”
Meanwhile, Malenosky turned to eighth-grader Olivia Mentzer in Game 2 as the starting pitcher. Mentzer hadn’t thrown in a varsity game before Wednesday, and she held the Warriors to three runs before they scored eight in the sixth inning.
In all, Mentzer’s pitching line was five-plus innings, eight hits, 10 runs (six earned), three walks and two strikeouts.
“She was throwing strikes, and that’s what we were talking about, just to throw strikes,” Malenosky said. “She got ahead in the count, and I was happy with that.”
Mentzer was surprised when Malenosky called her number to be the pitcher for Game 2. She had been throwing bullpens and watching Larson pitch. Mentzer wasn’t sure when that moment would be.
“It was a pretty scary experience, and I had never been out there before pitching varsity,” Mentzer said. “I was telling myself, ‘You got this, keep it simple, throw strikes.’ I had no clue that we were so low on pitchers (before the season). When I heard about it, it was like, ‘Wow.’”
Wednesday’s outing won’t be the only time Mentzer throws in the circle at the varsity level this season.
Malenosky wants to give some innings to Mentzer, as Evie Larson has thrown 45 out of 55 innings this year. Eighth-grader Lexi Plathe has also thrown five innings.
“Evie does a great job, and she’s a great competitor, but Evie can’t throw every single inning,” Malenosky said.
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