Sports

Athlete Spotlight: Sophomore Chelsea Purcell’s drive is helping Sonora into possible postseason

Photo by Erik Markus, La Habra Journal
Photo by Erik Markus, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Sonora’s Chelsea Purcell may not have endured the growing pains that some of her senior teammates did a couple years ago, but because of the sophomore’s competitive nature, she’s helping those seniors in an attempt to realize a goal of making the CIF playoffs.

Thanks in part to Chelsea’s surge at the plate, the Lady Raiders’ softball team finds itself in a four-way tie for the Freeway League lead with two games to play.

Two years ago, the varsity team had no seniors. Now the team is gunning for the league title, with games against city rival La Habra and Sunny Hills this week.

“I wanted to just step into a leadership role on the team and I wanted to be there and be the player the team needed me to be,” Chelsea said of her thoughts heading into this season. “Whether that meant at shortstop or hitting third or fourth in the lineup, I just wanted to contribute in any way I could for this team.”

Over the past two weeks, the Lady Raiders are 3-1 and were one out away from making it a 4-0 run and possibly sole possession of the league lead.

During that stretch, Chelsea’s overall play has contributed greatly. The sophomore went 9-for-17 with three home runs, two doubles, six runs scored and seven runs-batted-in.

Some of those hits have come in key situations, such as a three-run home run in the seventh inning against Troy to turn a one-run lead into a four-run cushion in a road contest, May 1.

Chelsea believes that her surge at the plate is a result of extra help she’s received from her father, Mo, at home.

“My dad has been home a lot more often and has been helping me with hitting the ball off the tee and going to the field and pitching to me,” Chelsea said. “He’s always taught me to see the ball, hit the ball and that calms me down at the plate. I think it’s helped a lot.”

In addition, Chelsea’s work at the shortstop position has also helped. The sophomore has not committed an error in her last six games and she’s only committed one error in Freeway League play this season.

“I’ve known Chelsea since she was five years old, she’s always been very competitive, it’s in her nature to want to win,” said Michelle Rodriguez, Sonora softball coach. “She’s known about the program for a while and she probably would have played a few years back if she could have, that’s just the type of competitor she is.”

Coming in to her sophomore season, Chelsea said she wanted to try and begin the process of stepping into a leadership role.

That extra motivation is paying off in the numbers, in which she leads the team in hits, doubles, home runs and RBI. She also ranks second in runs scored.

“It’s something special, this team has a lot of team chemistry and that has helped to the overall results a lot,” Chelsea said. “I always try to keep it on from beginning to end, my parents instilled that in me, no matter what happens, you have to keep going.”

However, Rodriguez said that while she’s impressed with Chelsea’s talent and her motivation to produce for her team, she admits that she would like to keep some of that potential pressure off her sophomore shortstop during the remainder of this season.

“Her ability is undeniable, but sometimes she carries a little too much pressure and that’s what we’re trying to bring down,” Rodriguez said. “We want to make sure that she doesn’t feel that pressure, she’s a sophomore and she’s definitely stepped up, but we want to make sure it’s not a burden on her. I threw her in the fire last year, but she’s been able to handle it and the difference has been leaps and bounds since last year.”

When it comes to the final weeks of her sophomore season, Chelsea said she just wants to keep producing to help her team close out the regular season and head into the playoffs.

“I just want to keep progressing,” she said. “Staying on it and working hard during practices is going to help me, so I have to keep on myself for that. As a team, we’re working well, we just want to keep up what we’re doing.”

When she’s not on the field or in the classroom, Chelsea still keeps her mind in the sport of softball by helping her niece, Jalen, who has recently started to play the game.

In the classroom, Chelsea carried a 4.3 Grade Point Average into the Spring semester and is working hard to maintain that as she approaches the end of the school year.

The sophomore enjoys studying AP European History as well as Chemistry.

“I really like Mrs. Appenrodt, she makes the class more personal and she’s helped me immensely with my academic career,” Chelsea said. “With Chemistry, Dr. Hawkins has definitely impacted me and has helped me grow as a sophomore, so I want to make sure they know I appreciate them.”

With the combination of her strong play and hard work in the classroom, Chelsea has already verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame earlier this year.

When it comes to role models, Chelsea said she receives an endless amount of support from her family.

“My parents (Mo and Pamela) have definitely impacted my life, if I have personal problems or troubles with academics, they’re always my motivators,” Chelsea said. “My sister has always been a role model since she played while I was growing up and my grandparents, they’re my biggest supporters in life.”

The sophomore has taken that support system and paid it forward to her teammates in the form of her bat and her glove, which continue to shine as the Lady Raiders continue to push for the playoffs.

“She really took to the learning expectations of the program and you can tell she wants that position,” Rodriguez said. “She sets a good example for everybody. It’s great knowing that we don’t have to start over with new faces having to step up after this season. I tell the girls all the time that you don’t have to have the title of Captain to be a leader and she’s gone with that.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.