‘I’m gonna get this pitch': Kadlec continues family legacy with first collegiate hit

After earning her first career hit, senior Katherine Kadlec was overwhelmed by the support of her teammates, coaches and family.

No. 18 Missouri softball led 7-0 in the sixth inning against Middle Tennessee State on Sunday. With the game-ending run on base, the Tigers had a chance to finish the Blue Raiders off with an inning to spare.

Coach Larissa Anderson turned to senior catcher Katherine Kadlec — who stood in the dugout in full catching gear — with some persuasion from the team. Kadlec came into the game without ever recording a collegiate hit.

“Hatti Moore got my attention, she’s like, ‘Coach, coach, Katherine, Katherine, go to Katherine,’” Anderson said. “Katherine’s in full catcher’s gear from head to toe because she was in the bullpen, and I’m like, ‘Katherine, let’s go.’”

Kadlec travels with the team, primarily as a bullpen catcher.

“All of the sudden, like six of my teammates look at me and they’re like, ‘Kathy, you’re hitting,’” Kadlec said. “I’m pretty sure my eyes got like this big because I was like, ‘Okay, I’m in full gear,’ and they’re like, ‘You’re hitting right now.’”

Kadlec quickly took off her catching gear and made her way to the batter’s box.

“My hitting coach slowed me down for a second and was like, ‘Here’s what she’s doing,’” Kadlec said. “Then I said, ‘I’m gonna get this pitch. I’m gonna hit it. I’m gonna do something.’”

Kadlec then found herself in the batter’s box. She swung at the first pitch.

Strike one.

“I was amped,” Kadlec said. “I swing at the first pitch and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’”

The next pitch came in high. She swung again.

Strike two.

“I’m pretty sure it was about two feet above my head, and I swung very hard,” Kadlec said. “I look at Coach and Coach is like, ‘Settle down, you’re fine. Settle down,’ and I was like, ‘Coach, it looked this big. It looked this big. I wanted to hit it so bad.’”

Before the next pitch, she paused.

“I thought to myself, ‘Okay, don’t swing at a ball above your head,’” Kadlec said. “‘If she puts it somewhere you can touch it, foul it off, put it in play, do something. Do your best, stay within yourself.’”

The pitch came. Kadlec swung again.

Contact.

“In that moment, it was like, ‘Oh, I touched the ball, now I need to run, I need to get to first and be safe because I need to score our girl on third,” Kadlec said. “All I’m here to do is score that run. I probably had like 30 thoughts going through my head at once because I’m not very good at slowing myself down, but I just hit the ball and I was like, ‘Okay, run. Just get to first and then we’ll go from there.’”

Kadlec’s first career hit, a single to left field, ended the game. Her RBI single triggered college softball’s mercy rule to give the Tigers an 8-0 run-rule victory in six innings.

Kadlec’s teammates quickly mobbed her after the win-sealing run crossed the plate.

“I just sat back when the team rushed the field, and I just watched,” Anderson said. “It’s about them and the respect that they have… When you see the team react the way that they did, you know you really do truly have something special.”

The moment wasn’t only special for Kadlec, but for the team as a whole.

“I was so excited for Katherine because she’s helped me so much since I’ve been here,” freshman pitcher Laurin Krings said. “She’s taught me so much about how to stay focused before a game, helping me with my warmup and everything. The energy was really, really high, we were all so excited for her. I couldn’t think of another girl who deserved it more.”

While her parents weren’t in South Alabama to see it live, Kadlec took them through it upon returning to the team hotel. Upon the team’s return to Columbia, Kadlec was able to see them and have a special moment with them.

“Getting to talk them through it and getting to give them my perspective of it was so much fun,” Kadlec said. “Then getting to see them — because they’re from Columbia — getting to see them when I got home was so much fun too because it was big hugs all around… Both of them just hugged me and said that they were so proud of me.”

Kadlec’s hit is another part of a family history that has strong ties to the University of Missouri. Her grandfather, the late John Kadlec, earned the affectionate nickname “Mr. Mizzou'' after playing for the football team. He also coached for the football team on two occasions, 1952-1960 and 1966-1977. He also spent 16 years as a color commentator for the Tiger Radio Network.

The practice fields at the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex bear his name.

“Having that at-bat, knowing that he was up there watching me and knowing that he’s with me always is part of why I was so emotional,” Kadlec said. “It was a ‘Grandpa, I did it.’... I know that he got to see my success and I know he’s not here to enjoy it with me, but I know that him and my grandma were up there cheering for me and rooting me on… Knowing the impact he had on this university and that I could just be a small part of it means the world.”

After the game, Anderson gifted Kadlec with a game ball. That ball will likely take residence in the Kadlec house, where the family has a plethora of university memorabilia from her grandfather’s time, as well as other collectibles.

When that ball joins the rest of the memorabilia, Kadlec will see it and remember her teammates — specifically the support that she received from them.

“As much as I’ll remember that hit, I’ll remember how much I love my team and how much my team supported me in that moment,” Kadlec said. “When it comes down to it, yes, I’ll remember that moment, but I’ll remember my teammates forever… That ball is a lot more than just my walk-off RBI, it’s all of my teammates love all wrapped up in one.”

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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