MOUNT ZION — Kynzie Wrigley has heard the murmurs when she steps into the batter's box.
At times, opposing teams would wonder how much damage the 5-foot-2 junior on Mount Zion could do.
"She's small," she hears. "She can't hit."
The words don't bother Wrigley. She knows she has plenty of pop in her bat, and before long she shows other teams what kind of damage she can do from the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
When the Braves (30-4-1) play Sycamore at 12:30 p.m. on Friday at EastSide Centre in East Peoria in the Class 3A state semifinals, there shouldn't be any secrets about what Wrigley can do at the plate. She leads Mount Zion in batting average (.486), runs scored (49) and RBIs (42), is tied with Dayna Kennedy for the team lead with 12 doubles, and is second on the team in home runs (9), behind Kennedy's 10.
“If you work hard and you lift, it doesn’t matter how tall you are in softball," Wrigley said. "If you have power, you’ll be good."
Wrigley is picking up after a big sophomore year, when she hit .444 with six home runs, 41 RBIs and had 10 doubles while hitting No. 4 on a team that finished fourth in Class 3A. She's got experience, and earlier this season she committed to play softball at Division I Southeast Missouri State. Even still, she's flown relatively under the radar.
"There’s no question about that," Mount Zion coach Greg Blakey said. "Kynzie is kind of allowed to fly under the radar because Dayna gets all the big press because of all the home runs and all of the RBIs. The glue to the middle of our order has been Kynzie, to be honest."
Wrigley makes up a potent top of the order for the Braves, one Blakey hasn't had in all of his years of coaching. Three of the top four in the order are Division I commits or signees, and the fourth, Audrey Eades, is the team's ace and committed to Millikin. Kennedy is signed with Illinois State University and is the team's leadoff hitter, Eades is next, then comes Wrigley before University of Tennessee-Martin signee Ally Bruner comes to bat.
There's no pressure for Wrigley hitting third in a powerful lineup and Blakey said he isn't surprised to see such a big year from Wrigley, the team's shortstop. She caught fire in seven postseason games last year, hitting .481 with a pair of doubles, eight runs scored and five RBIs. That was the precursor to Wrigley's big summer that has carried over into this season.
“This summer I worked a lot with my summer ball coaches because I knew I wanted to play at the Division I level," Wrigley said. "I knew I had to take my practicing to the next level."
It's been a quick ascent to her spot as one of the top hitters in the area. Wrigley had zero home runs after her freshman season. Since then, she's pounded out 16 home runs, including a couple of momentum-shifting homers this postseason. That first home run, though, was eye-opening.
“After that I kind of realized, ‘Wow, I actually can hang with the bigger girls and I can do this,'" she said.
Her batting skills are met by her fielding ability. She's got more than enough range at shortstop and gives the Braves a strong middle of the infield with second baseman Bailey Davis. Wrigley took over as the team's starting shortstop midway through last season.
“She fought, battled and clawed her way up, which is fantastic," Blakey said. "She’s a quieter, confident person this year."
She's made just seven errors in 102 chances and turned five double plays. Wrigley makes the routine plays look easy and adds a couple of difficult plays in for good measure.
“She just goes after the ball, no matter what," teammate Emma Ewing said. "If it’s 20 feet away from her, she still tries to dive and get it. Her release is super quick; it’s so fast. She’s a hard worker."
When Wrigley and Mount Zion arrive at EastSide, they'll be ripe with experience with eyes on a state championship. No more nerves, no more secrets about the 5-foot-2 No. 3 hitter.
“I think last year we were a little bit more nervous because we didn’t know what to expect because we’d never been there before," she said. "This year we know what to expect, we know what we have to do and we’re going to get it done."