Spence shedding sister’s shadow
A year ago senior Kelly Spence pitched her way on to the 4A all-state team, ate up 135 of the Cardinals 153 innings and compiled a sparkling 1.24 earned run average. And just for kicks, she threw a no-hitter.
That was last year and now there is a new Spence taking the mound for the Eudora softball squad.
Junior left-hander Karen Spence is making a name for herself on the hill so far this season as one of the shutdown pitchers the Cardinals will need to make a deep run in post-season play.
After a glittering debut in 2003, Spence spent most of last year out of action with a broken leg. But by year's end, she earned her way onto the varsity team as she pitched in one of the final games after spending most of the season on the junior varsity team.
And oddly enough, it was in relief of her sister.
"I came in when Kelly had another no-hitter going," Spence said. "And when I came in it kind of got away. She still jokes with me about that."
Spence has played softball since age 7 and has always known that she wanted to pitch. She said following her older sister up through the ranks hasn't always been easy.
"I watched her for a while and learned from her and knew that I could do that too," Spence said. "Sometimes it was hard being in her shadow."
This year however, with the departure of her sister, Spence takes the hill knowing that she can pitch. She also knows that people aren't calling her Kelly's little sister anymore.
"When I first started pitching this year I was kind of nervous," Spence said. "But when I got comfortable I knew that I belonged out there."
And her first start this year was a memorable one. Spence went the distance against Gardner and hurled a two-hitter with five strike outs to grab the Cardinals' first win. She backed that performance up with a six-inning performance against Spring Hill where she only allowed three hits in a game that got away late.
Spence has developed her own brand of pitching for Eudora. The left-hander brings a rise ball and a curve ball that she calls "her pitch." She takes the hill with an approach all her own.
"I try to ignore the batter," she said. "I just try and focus on Alissa's (Hamilton) glove and do what I know I can do."
Although Spence has asserted herself on the mound, she admitted there was a little bit of her big sister out there with her.
"When I was little I always wanted to be like her," Spence said. "She even taught me how to throw a change-up and that was one of her best pitches."
Spence found herself fitting in nicely with the other pitchers in the rotation.
"It's great to pitch with Brynn (Hamilton) and Caitlyn (Riser)," she said. "I feel like I'm fitting in with them and now I know my role."
Some of her teammates are grateful that Spence has become so reliable.
"I knew that Caitlyn and Brynn would be good," second baseman Jacqueline Pyle said. "But I'm impressed with the way Karen's pitching. She's going to be big for us down the stretch."
After a week off, Spence -- like the rest of her teammates -- is ready to get back into action and turn the season around. Even then she still may feel a little bit of her big sister over her shoulder.
"She is a great pitcher and it's tough to sort of live in her shadow," Spence said. "But I think I'll be alright."