17 and counting: Liberty’s Emi Connell is a power hitter on the softball field

Sophomore Emi Connell has hit 17 home runs this season and is one of the motors of the high-powered Patriots offense.

If you aren’t familiar with Liberty High School sophomore Emi Connell, you should learn her name.

She is the designated hitter for the Liberty Patriots softball team and is having a historic season. Connell hits fourth for the Patriots and serves every purpose of the clean-up hitter.

“I figured it out about 12U when I wasn’t very fast,” Connell said laughing. “I just decided that I need to push through the ball and hit it as far as I can so I don’t have to run as hard.”

In the regular season, she hit 17 home runs. Yes, that’s correct. Seventeen homers.

It’s a new season record for the Patriots, and it’s hard work paying off for Connell. “I have recognized that it’s my job to bring runners around and score,” Connell said.

Over the course of the season, she hit home runs in three consecutive games early on. But even more impressively, she hit home runs in six consecutive games spanning April 17 to May 1 and was one game away from seven to close out the regular season.

When asked about the consistency of power, Head Coach Lindsay Barnes had a unique answer: “Yeah, we’ve had a player like that before and that player was me,” she said.

Her coach couldn’t sing Connell’s praises any louder. “Emi’s got everything. She’s so talented, so coachable … She knows what her role is and she takes it very seriously and has fun doing it as well,” Barnes said.

Connell’s most impressive game of the season so far was against Interlake on May 1. Connell went 3 for 3 with three home runs and 11 of the team’s 21 RBIs — all of which happened in three innings.

She hit a three-run homer in the first, and a grand slam in the second and third innings. It’s the first time she’s ever hit three in a game and Connell said it was all about confidence.

“I was feeling very confident in my timing,” she said. Her third homer stuck out, “I did my best to stay on time and wait for it. I was ready for it and I fired and it just went,” she said.

Connell has been coming back from a shoulder injury that has impacted her throwing ability, but her skill at the plate? Not so much. “She grinds harder at practice than almost anybody else … Once this shoulder thing has dissipated, people will be impressed with her defense as well,” Barnes said.

Connell is just a piece of a Liberty team that is looking to make some damage in the postseason this year. A team that has been consistently inside the Top 5 in the RPI Ratings and not only is the team on a 15-game winning streak, the only loss is to Kentwood. “From my perspective, we take it one game at a time and focus on the next team … We realize we have a target on our back and everyone that plays us is going to give us their best,” said Barnes.

The Patriots went undefeated in league play and are ready for the postseason. A unique attribute to this team’s success is the players’ chemistry. “These are the girls I’ve thrown a ball with from day one. We work hard on every pitch to get every out. We’ve always had that chemistry and this year it’s just working really well for us,” Connell said.

The Patriots sit atop the KingCo standings and await the winner of the four vs five-seed game in the KingCo tournament. The Liberty’s game is May 9 at Juanita High School.

Liberty softball was also named WIAA 3A Team of the Month for the month of April.