Ozark softball

Hattie Depee offers a delivery for Ozark at Kickapoo on Friday.

Knowing who was in front of her as well as behind her helped Ozark pitcher Hattie Depee look more like the pitcher the Lady Tigers got to know last year.

Depee threw her best game of the season thus far Friday in Ozark’s 8-6 triumph at Kickapoo. She had the rare distinction of earning a win and a save by starting and working the first five innings, before being summoned to finish things by getting the final two outs.

Depee yielded one run in 5.2 innings.

“Kickapoo is always a fun opponent to play,” Depee said. “We know a lot of their girls. So, the adrenaline is always pumping in the dugout. I didn’t really have to pump myself back up when I went back in. 

“It’s also nice to get in a routine and already know which girl likes what. Coach (Jimmy) Nimmo knows their players, too, and knows where to call pitches.”

Depee has faced the Lady Chiefs during summer club ball while pitching for Extreme Heat. The last game she had pitched against Kickapoo while wearing an Ozark uniform, she led the Lady Tigers to a 10-1 District win last year.

“I think a lot of her success tonight was because of the success she had against Kickapoo last year at Districts, when she shut them down,” Nimmo said. “That was probably the best game she’s ever thrown. So, she had confidence going into this game. Also, she faces a lot of their girls during summer ball. She knows how their hitters are.”

Depee was hit hard in Ozark’s opener this season, a 6-2 loss to Jeff City in which she surrendered five runs in three innings.

“I’ve had a rough couple games,” she said, “I’ve been kind of nervous for games. Today I was thinking, ‘It’s time to stop with the nervousness and just go at it.’ That was my mentality.”

“She’s seasoned enough to know you’re going to have some bad outings,” Nimmo said. “She’s mature enough and strong-minded enough to overcome those low moments and pitch well against a great team like Kickapoo. 

“She dug deep down and really wanted this game. The changeup was working well for her and that’s something she has been working on,” he added. “Placing her pitches is the biggest thing she has been working on in the bullpen. I feel she did a much better job with that.”

Depee was glad to have center-fielder Abby Ford behind her. Ford made several catches at the fence. 

“Abby did great,” Depee said. “I’m always confident she is going to catch it. She’s quick and reads the ball well. Our defense was really good the whole day, so I was confident because of that.”

Nimmo raved about Ford’s defense.

“She’s going to make a lot of hits into outs. The girl can flat out move, cover the gaps and is hardly afraid of anything,” Nimmo said. “The fence and her are like best friends. She’ll find it and makes the plays. She’ll take a chance no matter what. If it’s hit over her head, she’s going all out and if she has to run through the fence to catch it, she’ll run through the fence. That’s her mentality. 

“And she has two great teammates (Maddy Spies and Kenna Mayfield) out there with her who communicate well, cover ground and are just as aggressive,” he added. “Our outfield has done a tremendous job.”

Offensively, Ford and Mayfield both banged out two hits. The Lady Tigers plated six runs over the first two innings.

 Kickapoo’s seventh-inning rally ended when Ozark turned a double play by throwing out a batter at first on an infield grounder and then tagging out a runner at home.

Ozark (4-2) went on to play Saturday at Bolivar. The Lady Tigers edged the Lady Liberators 4-3 and fell to McDonald County 5-2.

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