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Pasley’s spirit lives in Clippers’ state-bound team

Published: Thursday, June 5, 2014 12:09 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, June 5, 2014 12:00 p.m. CDT
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(Alex T. Paschal@apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Kaitlyn Liebing's catcher's mask rests on a fence at Amboy High School on Tuesday at the Clippers softball practice. The "Paz" sticker is in honor of Mike Pasley, a social studies teacher at Amboy, who died in March.

Destinee Oenes stepped to the plate on April 10 with the score between her Amboy Clippers and the Newman Comets tied at four.

The senior third baseman had homered once earlier in the game, and despite emotions running high, she blocked everything else out of her mind.

"I came to plate with the situation in the game on my mind," Oenes said. "That's all you can do. We had a runner on, and I wanted to make sure that I either moved her over or drove her in. The home run was sort of a bonus."

Oenes clubbed a two-run home run to cap a big win over a rival in Newman, and to end a game between two teams that were mourning.

On Sunday, March 23, Mike Pasley, a social studies teacher and an ardent supporter of athletics at Amboy, had died suddenly. Pasley's daughter, Erin, is a player on the Newman fresh/soph team.

"We always want to beat Newman," Oenes said. "But that game meant more to both teams, and it was a special moment."

Both teams wore shirts remembering Pasley, and Amboy has stickers that say "Paz" on their helmets. Some players also have stickers on their car windows.

Oenes' approach at the plate would have made Pasley proud.

Pasley was a PA announcer at football and basketball games at Amboy. He also worked as a sports correspondent for the Moline Dispatch, Quincy Herald Whig and Sauk Valley Media.

"It was really sad, because he really was our biggest supporter," junior catcher Kaitlyn Leibing said. "He'd send out emails to everyone in school on game days to try and get them to come to games. If he wasn't there, he'd always ask how the game went the next day."

The tragedy of Pasley's death also pushed the team together, forcing them to form stronger bonds.

"This team had to face such adversity early in the season, and helped form their character," Amboy coach Kelly Whitman said. "They learned to not take anything for granted and never to give up."

"His death was sad, but it brought us so close together," Oenes said. "I think it sort of became our motivation."

When Liebing caught the final pitch – a strike – of Monday's 1A DeKalb Supersectional win over Putnam County, she admits that Pasley was the first thing to come to her mind.

"After all these big wins, he's who I think about," Liebing said. "We've definitely felt like he was watching down on us with how some of these games have gone. They've been exciting, and we've had to battle. He would have been proud."

And maybe it should be no surprise that the game set up to honor Pasley turned out to be a tune up for Oenes in the postseason.

On Saturday, the Clippers rallied in the seventh inning with two runs to tie Orangeville in the 1A Pearl City Sectional championship game.

After Karlee Doege kept the Broncos off the board in the top of the eighth, Oenes stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the inning.

One more swing, one more homer, and the Clippers had made history by winning their first sectional title.

"The home run at the sectional is probably the one I'll remember most," Oenes said. "To win the first sectional like that is amazing. But both home runs are special memories from a special season."

The T-shirts made for the game with Newman have one of Pasley's favorite sayings on the front. "Make history with a victory."

The Clippers have done exactly that.

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