2017-06-16 / Sports

Sunny outlook

SOFTBALL /// Liberty Flames Former Simi Valley softball star finds her niche with Liberty University
By Nate Smith
Special to the Acorn


LOOKING UP—Rylee Reynolds, a Simi Valley High graduate, is an infielder for the Liberty University softball team. She remained positive after a pitch hit her and broke her arm midway through the season. 
Photos courtesy of Liberty University Photography LOOKING UP—Rylee Reynolds, a Simi Valley High graduate, is an infielder for the Liberty University softball team. She remained positive after a pitch hit her and broke her arm midway through the season. Photos courtesy of Liberty University Photography Injuries can crush an athlete’s spirit.

For Rylee Reynolds, an injury only strengthened her resolve.

The Liberty University infielder suffered a broken right arm during the softball team’s 10-6 home win against Rhode Island on March 10 in Lynchburg, Va.

“I was up to bat and I got hit by a pitch,” said Reynolds, a Simi Valley High graduate. “I was in a full arm cast for five weeks.

“When I got hit, I ran to first. I had to steal second and third, then I realized I couldn’t pump my arm to run. I tried to throw the ball, but I couldn’t throw it. I came to the dugout almost crying, and there was this huge knot in my arm.”


Rylee Reynolds Rylee Reynolds She was re-evaluated five weeks later, but the bone did not heal properly. Doctors told her it was too risky to play again the rest of the season.

Throwing and playing defense was too painful, but Reynolds refused to sit on the sidelines.

The 19-year-old couldn’t patrol second base, but she did contribute as a pinch hitter. Every time she got up to the plate, she removed her cast and put on an arm guard.

Reynolds’ return gave the Flames a boost.

“Her bat is something this team is able to utilize,” catcher Kaitlin McFarland said. “When her arm was starting to heal, she would take her cast off and go pinch-hit. She was mentally prepared. She’s been very clutch for us.”

Reynolds was naturally upset that she couldn’t play defense, but the injury gave her perspective. Reynolds, who majors in music and worship with an emphasis in youth ministry, found strength in her Christian faith.

BACK IN THE DAY—Simi Valley’s Rylee Reynolds catches a pop-fly against Royal in 2015. Reynolds is now an infielder for Liberty University. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers BACK IN THE DAY—Simi Valley’s Rylee Reynolds catches a pop-fly against Royal in 2015. Reynolds is now an infielder for Liberty University. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers The infielder posted a message on social media after finding out that she would not be medically cleared to return to the field. She wrote about how God was watching over her and that she trusted him completely.

To Reynolds’surprise, she got a heartfelt response from a stranger.

“I had a girl message me back saying that she had cancer,” Reynolds said. “She said I really touched her. I then realized my problems were very small.”

Reynolds and Tiffany Hedge, a softball player from Virginia, began a correspondence. Hedge wrote that she was going through chemotherapy—and that Reynolds’ post on social media had inspired her.

Hedge is now cancer free. Reynolds said that Hedge plans to enroll at Liberty in the fall.

Teammates and coaches praised Reynolds for her strong work ethic.

“There is a toughness about her, a determination,” Liberty head coach Dot Richardson said. “I’ve put her in at important moments, and she got those clutch hits.”

Reynolds is no stranger to competition. She won a starting job her first year with the program.

After bouncing around the infield, she started at second base the majority of her freshman season.

Reynolds, who attended services at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch while growing up in Simi Valley, enjoyed a prolific prep career with the Pioneers. She was a three-time team MVP and an All-Ventura County selection.

One of the best pitchers in the region during her high school days, Reynolds appeared destined to throw in college. She’s adjusted to patrolling the infield with the Flames.

“I always really liked infield,” she said. “I would consider that my main position. I started at third base, I pitched one time in practice, then I got moved to second. I miss pitching because I loved it, but I go wherever they need me.”

Despite having a squad loaded with well-rounded women, Richardson said, she relishes coaching Reynolds.

“It’s such a joy,” Richardson said. “As a student-athlete and as a person, she is truly amazing. She is a giving individual and Christ-centered. She has such a joy about her.”

After college, Reynolds wants to be a ministry leader who works with children.

“I want to lead worship at a church and work with the youth,” Reynolds said. “I was really called to do that. The people that brought me up in my faith, I want to be like that to someone else. . . .

“This is what I should do. A lot of people don’t get it—this is something you don’t need to major in.”

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