“I found out an hour before the game I was going to pitch,” Reynolds said after Sunday’s third game of the best-of-3 Section 3 Senior League All-Star Softball Tournament at the Chipper Jones Family Complex at DeLand Little League. “Once I knew (she was pitching), I was going to do what I had to do and warm up.”
And all Reynolds did was scatter 10 hits, walk two batters and strike out five in leading the South Putnam All-Stars to an 8-5 win over District 11 champion Yulee to win the best-of-three series, 2-1, and advance to next weekend’s state tournament at the Plant City Little League complex. South Putnam lost the first game on Saturday, 10-8, but came back with a run in the bottom of the seventh of the second game to win it 8-7, setting up Sunday’s decider.
It marked the first time in South Putnam’s history that an All-Star team advanced to the state tournament on any level.
“I’m excited and overwhelmed by this,” said South Putnam manager Jeromy Liles, who watched the softball program at South Putnam grow up in the five years the program has existed there. “I’m 36 and nothing I’ve done in my life or career can compare to what these girls accomplished. These girls have made my world.”
After watching Reynolds pitch South Putnam to a Game 2 win to even the series at 1-1 on Saturday, Liles decided to go with Reynolds again instead of his daughter Kylee, who struggled mightily in a 10-8 Game 1 loss in which she walked nine Yulee hitters and hit another.
“I chose Kalin solely on the fact that she had a better of effect on (Yulee’s) hitting,” Liles said. “Kylee had a tough time. And (Yulee) was having a hard time picking up on Kalin’s ball.”
Reynolds, who will be entering her senior year at Palatka High School, was able to keep Yulee’s hitters off balance and tied most of them up with getting the ball inside on them.
“I kept hitting the inside corner,” Reynolds said. “All I wanted to was keep jamming them in on their hands.”
And Reynolds delivered in the biggest game in South Putnam Little League history while remaining cool throughout on a nearly 90-degree morning.
“I got to the seventh inning and I was not really that nervous,” she said. “I figured if I kept doing what I was doing, everything would work out the way it was supposed to.”
Yulee strung three singles together against Reynolds in the first inning, the final won by Alexiss Baldwin to knock home Jade Koile, to make it 1-0.
And that would be all Yulee would get against Reynolds for a while. South Putnam’s big inning of Game 3 was the second inning when it scored five times. Kaitlyn Jackson singled to lead off the inning, but was forced out at second on a Kelsey Jones grounder. No. 9 hitter Ashley Hutchinson walked, bringing up Savannah Lepanto. On an 0-1 pitch, Lepanto lined a single to left field to score Jones to tie the game at 1-1.
That brought up Liles. She ripped a shot off third baseman Bree Kilpatrick’s glove that bounced into foul territory. Hutchinson scored, Lepanto moved to third and Liles stopped at second with a double. Lepanto would come home on a wild pitch from losing pitcher Natalie Ohlendorf to make it 3-1. Then a fielder’s choice grounder by Sara Hamling allowed Liles to beat the play at the plate for a 4-1 lead. Hamling, who scooted to second on the play, would come home on a single to center by Reynolds, who was 2-for-4 in the final game.
South Putnam added another run in the second when Lepanto reached on a forceout, moved to second on another forceout and scored on a Hamling single to left-center field. Hamling, who was hit five times by pitches in the first two games on Saturday, was 1-for-5 with a run and an RBI.
The team nicknamed the Mean Guppies then threatened to run away with this one in the fourth when with two outs, Jackson and Jones singled, Hutchinson reached on a fielder’s choice and Lepanto came through again with a two-run single to center field.
But in the fifth, Yulee came back with three runs, two scoring on a wild pitch that turned disastrous when catcher Lepanto threw away wide of the plate for an error in trying to get Kilpatrick, allowing Koile to score. One out later, Baldwin blasted a triple to right-center field and scored on a Tori Akers groundout.
An Ohlendorf sacrifice fly in the sixth inning brought home Gabby Stefanko to make it a three-run game, but with runners on second and third and two out, Reynolds struck out Morgan Stanfield swinging to end the threat.
Not only did Reynolds end the sixth with a big strikeout, she ended the game with a strikeout as she got Stefanko swinging to end it all.
“I’ve played softball and been in small tournaments throughout,” Reynolds said. “But this is the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved in by far. We’re going to the state tournament.”
Yulee jumped out to a 6-0 lead on South Putnam in Game 1 on Saturday and though South Putnam kept fighting back, it came up short in the end. Reynolds finished Game 1 3-for-5 with two RBI.
In Game 2, South Putnam held a 7-6 lead going to the top of the sixth when Yulee tied it up on an Akers single that brought home Sindy Hayworth. In the bottom of the seventh, Liles blooped a single to left field and Hamling was hit for the fifth time on the day by a pitch from losing hurler Ohlendorf. Reynolds hit a groundball to third baseman Kilpatrick, who stepped on the base to force out Liles, but her attempt to finish the double play skipped past first baseman Alicia Rowell. With the ball bouncing in foul territory, Hamling raced around the bases and beat the throw home for the winning run.
South Putnam won the second game despite collecting just three hits (one each by Liles, Reynolds and Jones) and taking advantage of 11 walks and five hit batsmen. Reynolds gave up 12 hits, walked seven, hit another batter and struck out two.