Metamora High School softball

Tom Batters
Maddie Anglin (left), Kasey Kanaga (center) and Molly Cull (right) prrovide steady defense in the Metamora infield.

Sometimes Metamora High School softball coach Deric Linder has to tell Molly Cull to slow down.

But, that is easier said than done.

“She’ll come out here after church on Sundays and hit for an hour or so, or field ground balls,” Linder said. “She works really hard — sometimes too hard. You just have to tell her to settle down a little.”

Cull, the third baseman who has already committed to play for Illinois State University, is one third of a trio of juniors who were all key components of the Redbirds’ state championship last year, and who are all gaining rave reviews from Linder this year.

The other two are shortstop Maddie Anglin and second baseman Kasey Kanaga.

“Molly is the best third baseman in our area,” Linder said. “You saw that today. We see it every time she plays.”

Linder was referring to a couple defensive plays Cull made in a 7-0 win over Limestone. She raced in toward the fence near the dugout and made a diving catch on a low foul pop fly. On another play she charged in on a ground ball and threw a cannon to first base to get the runner by a half of a step.

Cull hits fourth in the Redbirds lineup. She is a little intimidating to opposing pitchers, and she hits the ball really hard. She drove in the first run in an 11-1 win over Canton Thursday against all-conference pitcher Beth Wilson when she laced a shot to third base to score Kanaga, who was hit by a pitch on the first pitch of the game.

Kanaga was clearly in pain as she walked slowly to first base after getting drilled in the back with a fast ball from Wilson, who throws hard.

The temperature was in the low 40s and a bitter cold wind blew heavily straight in from right field, which could not have helped the pain.

But Kanaga shook it off and scored the run. On her next at-bat, she singled off Wilson, and scored again.

Kanaga, Linder said, is the perfect leadoff hitter because of her speed and ability to get on base, but he will also drop her to the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

“She can steal bases, and she’s also a very smart base runner,” he said.

Against Limestone, Kanaga hit a ball into the left-center gap, and sprinted around first into second base. She kept right on running and stretched the double into a triple after the center fielder hesitated before throwing the ball into the infield.

Kanaga usually bats left-handed, but she hit that triple from the right side.

“She has a little more power right-handed,” Linder said.

Kanaga also makes her share of highlight-reel plays at second base.

And then there is Anglin, the shortstop and No. 3 hitter who Linder calls “the best I have ever had.”

“She is a great player, but an even better person,” he said. “She’s a 4.0 student, and she’s a wonderful kid. She works very hard, too. She spent a lot of time in the weight room, and she worked so hard on her hitting in the off season.”

Anglin was robbed of a home run against Limestone when she drilled a ball over the left field fence into the gusting wind. The ball went around the foul pole in fair territory before the wind swirled it foul, but the umpire called it a foul ball.

“She’s tough to get out when she hits the ball like that,” Linder said, smiling. “I thought it was a home run. She crushed it.”

In a recent win over Washington, Anglin made a diving catch with two runners on base to save at least one run. She routinely makes plays that not many other shortstops make. She can field the ball in the shortstop-third base hole and make a strong throw to get the runner at first.

“She has a phenomenal arm,” Linder said.

Those three juniors, along with senior Paige Garber at first base, give the Redbirds one of the most reliable infields in the area, which Linder said, some people may take for granted.

“We do a lot of the little things well,” he said. “We make the plays in the infield and don’t give away runs. I feel confident in every one of our infielders. I know they’re going to make the plays they are supposed to make, and they make plays that maybe some other infielders wouldn’t be able to make.”