Photo by Theo Tate
Edwardsville’s Jordyn Henricks delivers a pitch against Belleville East on April 11.
Four months ago, Lori Blade hit the 400-win mark as Edwardsville girls basketball coach after her team beat Belleville West.
Blade is the Tigers’ winningest coach with 425 wins. She has been coaching the basketball program since 2002.
Now, Blade has more than 400 wins as Edwardsville’s softball coach. She reached the 400-win mark on April 4 after the Tigers beat Alton 3-0 at home.
The Edwardsville softball program has 810 wins in its 44-year program history: about half of them came from Blade. She has 404 victories, more than any other EHS coach.
“I love coach Blade,” Edwardsville junior pitcher Jordyn Henricks said. “She’s a great coach, she’s a great teacher and she teaches a lot of little things here.”
So far, Edwardsville is off to a good start in Blade’s 14th season as coach, winning 10 of its first 11 games. Belleville West handed the Tigers their only loss on April 6.
“We’re happy with the performances we’ve been getting so far, but we know we have to keep pushing,” Edwardsville senior Sarah Hangsleben said.
Last year, the Tigers went 28-6 and won a Class 4A Edwardsville Regional title but lost to O’Fallon in the sectional semifinals.
“That was tough,” said Taryn Brown, a junior catcher. “We had a really talented team and we expected to go farther, but we played well all season.”
Hangsleben said she’s optimistic her team can clear the sectional hurdle this season.
“We hope to make it as far as possible,” the senior said. “We know if we continue to work hard on and off the field, we’ll have a good chance.”
Edwardsville lost several key players to graduation such as Rachel Anderson, Hayli Green and Jordan Corby, but brought back five returning all-Southwestern Conference selections in Hangsleben, Brown, Jordan Garella, Anna Burke and Emma Lewis.
“We won the regional last year, but we graduated a ton within the last two years,” Blade said. “The expectations are still there to be competitive. Hopefully, we can be competitive and end up on the top of the conference and be prepared to make a run in the postseason. That doesn’t change for us. We just had to put some different kids in and the kids are responding really well.”
This season, Burke, Hangsleben, Lewis and Brown are all batting over .300 and Garella has a pair of wins in the circle.
Edwardsville also has been getting solid contributions from Henricks, junior Lauren Taplin and freshman Maria Smith. Henricks is hitting .452 with two home runs and eight RBIs and has seven wins in the circle, Taplin is the Tigers’ leading hitter with a .538 average and Smith is batting .455 with two homers and 15 RBIs.
Brown said chemistry has been one of the key factors in the Tigers’ successful season.
“I think we work really well together,” the junior said. “We’re kind of young, but everything’s been working out. We work off of each other’s successes and it has worked out really well for us.”
Before being hired as Edwardsville’s fifth coach in program history 13 years ago, Blade headed the Carrollton softball team. The Hawks won nine regional titles, five sectional championships and qualified for state five times during her tenure.
Blade replaced Dave Schumacher as the Tigers’ head coach in 2004. She took over a program that lost a program-record 22 games in 2003.
Now, Edwardsville is a Metro East softball powerhouse, winning 11 regional titles and five sectional championships and qualifying for state five times in the last 13 years.
The Tigers have never finished with a losing season under Blade. Edwardsville has won 30 or more games seven times, including a school-record 37 in 2007, during Blade’s tenure.
“It’s a blessing,” Blade said. “I’m very appreciative of the fact that I get the opportunity to work with these young people. We have great support from the kids, families, community and administration and everything. It goes back to a lot of kids being a part of it over the years in those wins, so they just buy in and do what they’re supposed to do and hang together and work hard.”
Hangsleben said she’s thrilled to play for a successful softball program at Edwardsville.
“We definitely have high standards,” she said. “We push forward and try to do the best we can every year.”