Wednesday, 29 July 2020 14:59

Trio of Lady Raiders compete in USA Softball national championship

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Richmond's Kenleigh Frye (second from left, front row) celebrates her fourth-place finish with her teammates. Richmond's Kenleigh Frye (second from left, front row) celebrates her fourth-place finish with her teammates. Contributed photo.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Kenleigh Frye, Allyiah Swiney and Maylyn Wallace are used to wearing the same kelly green and gold softball uniforms for Richmond Senior High School.

The trio of rising junior softball players did that for three games this spring before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the remainder of their season. While Richmond’s softball facilities have sat empty, the three Lady Raiders haven’t let that stop them.

Over summer break, all three have found a way to get back on the diamond with their respective travel ball teams. And they even competed against each other in the USA Softball 16U National Championship in Tennessee last week.

Gone were the Richmond uniforms, replaced instead by Frye’s red and white Carolina Cardinals jersey, Swiney’s black Lady Dukes Lamar jersey and Wallace’s South Carolina Elite threads.

The national championship, which was a three-pool, double-elimination tournament held in Chattanooga from July 20-25, featured 95 teams from 20 states across the country. Teams came in from as far as California, Michigan and Wisconsin, while the majority of the programs were represented by the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

All three Lady Raiders had a successful week, each finishing in the top 20 teams. Wallace and the Elite took 17th place, Swiney and the Lady Dukes nabbed a seventh-place finish, and Frye’s team impressed by nearly winning it all, coming up just short in fourth place.

This past spring, Frye and Swiney would have played their second complete varsity season for first-year head coach Mike Way, while Wallace was looking to play her first full year of varsity softball after joining the team midway through her freshman year.

“It feels really good to be back on the field especially after missing out on school ball,” Frye, an outfielder for coaches John Garner and Monte Sherrill, said. “Travel ball gave us all something to fall back on to help with recruiting.

“I know we were all ready to get back into it,” she added. “It was hard to stay active when all of this started, we couldn’t work out together. I did a lot of solo work, but it’s been great getting back into the swing of things.”

Having joined the Carolina Cardinals last year, Frye batted .500 through 12 games in the tournament. She added there were several new girls on the team this year, and despite limited practice time, she said it “means a lot” for the team to finish fourth overall.

The Carolina Cardinals collected a 10-2 overall record, losing only to Lady Lightning Gold Elite (N.C.) and the Wisconsin Lightning by a combined six runs. Frye’s team outscored its opponents 82-22 and even played five games in one day.

Swiney, who verbally committed to play softball at Duke University during the spring of her eighth-grade year, has played for coaches James Lamar and Robert Young for three years as a right fielder.

“I think I played very well in this tournament and did what I could do best to benefit my team,” Swiney said. “After I had a diving catch, my teammate came up and hit a walkoff homerun to win the game in extra innings.”

“Playing in a national championship like this is beneficial to me and my (Richmond) teammates because if we are playing at a higher level against better competition, it’s making us all better for when we come back together,” she added.

The Lady Dukes compiled a 9-2 overall record, and one of their losses also came to the Lady Lightning Gold Elite. The other loss was to the Birmingham Thunderbolts (Alabama), which lost in the championship game. Swiney’s team scored 81 total runs to its opponents’ 59.

Of what she thought the best part of the five-day tournament was, Swiney said it was getting to face great competition, while overcoming adversity and becoming a better player.

Wallace and her S.C. Elite team managed to earn a 7-2 record before being eliminated from competition. She’s also an outfielder for head coach Dana Fusetti, a team she began playing for a year and a half ago.

In one of the bracket games, Wallace started the inning off with a double to left-center field, which started a four-run inning. That inning, she noted, ultimately led to the team’s victory.

The Elite lost to the Georgia Impact by nine runs, and came up a run short against Atlanta Premier to keep their championship hopes alive. Wallace’s team outscored opponents 41-22 over its nine-game stretch.

“I never really let up over the spring. I continued to work separately at home,” Wallace explained of the dead period. “The only thing I didn’t get to do as much was practice hitting live off of a pitcher.

“When we play against each other, there is this drive in you that just wants to beat them,” she admitted about her fellow Richmond teammates. “But when we play on the same team that drive turns into a bond that makes us so much stronger.”  

This spring and summer seasons are also integral for all three Lady Raiders’ college playing hopes. College recruiters are able to start making contact with them during the fall semester of their junior year, and for Frye and Wallace, they want to see the offers start rolling in.

“Not having our sophomore season hurt, but getting to play this summer has helped with recruiting a little bit,” Frye said. “All of our games were streamed and that gives college coaches a chance to see us play.”

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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