MT. ZION (WCIA) — When Mt. Zion head softball coach Greg Blakey spoke about his team, he held back tears. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the Braves’ season, and it’s been an emotional time for the senior class who won’t get to compete in their final high school season. Blakey has been at the head of the program for almost 30 years, and this senior class meant something special to him.
“This group has grown so much over the years, and it would have been nice to see them finish it”, says Blakey. “You spend three to four hours with these kids, five to six days a week, and they kind of become your own [children].”
With five returning starters, the Braves had their sights set on making more history this season. They already did so last year by brining home the program’s first third place trophy with a 4-2 win over Kankakee Bishop McNamara in 3A. Another appearance at the State Tournament would have made it three in a row for Mt. Zion.
“I just wish I would have known it would be my last game,” says senior Kynzie Wrigley. “You’re always told ‘play like it’s your last game’ and I think this whole experience has shown you really do need to play every game like it’s your last.”
Wrigley led the team at the plate last year, with 40+ RBI’s, and more than 10 home runs. The Southeastern Missouri State-signee is one of three seniors heading to the next level. Braves’ pitcher Audrey Eades will play for Millikin, earning a 2.08 ERA on the mound last season. They both feel lucky to have ended their high school careers on a win.
“I couldn’t be prouder of us group of girls, it means so much that we went there, and this year since we didn’t really get there, we still have those memories to look back on,” says Eades.
While their memories on the field might have ended a season too early, they’re still hoping to create new ones. Saturday morning brunch before every game has been a program tradition they hope to continue when it’s safe to gather.