There would be no dramatic “reveal” for Kelley Lynch when she committed Tuesday night as four top college programs--Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Washington-- waited to learn if they would get the services of the outstanding pitcher/first baseman who hits as well as she pitches.
Unlike the showmanship that happens in football, where players place hats of the final few schools they are considering on a table and melodramatically reach for one, then another and finally put on the hat of the school they’ll attend, Kelley decided she’d simply call the coaches and tell them where she would go.
No live press conferences or TV interviews, just a few quick calls last night to the runners-up who she said, “were super understanding and wished the best for me.”
Then came the more pleasant call around 10:00 pm EST to the coach and school that won her over on her official visit the weekend of September 29, Heather Tarr and the Washington Huskies.
Finally, this morning, the process ended with a quiet signing of the National Letter of Intent at home with her mother, Jan, among the Purple and Gold colors of Washington. A post on Facebook and a notification on Twitter and that’s about as flashy as Kelley would get.
So why the Huskies when the other three finalists are so much closer to home?
“Obviously it would be awesome to play closer to home,” she began, “but after visiting all the schools and praying about it, I had a strong feeling that Washington was the place for me. I can see myself there as where I’ll learn the most and it being the environment I’ll get the most out of.”
“The other three universities are great,” she continued. “I loved the coaches and the schools, but it was just my gut feeling that Washington is where I’m meant to be. I really liked the place (Seattle) and hanging out with the coaches, players and people there and I wanted to take some time after my trip since, obviously, this is the biggest decision I’ve had to make so far in my life.”
Her host on the trip was infielder Sis Bates and she also hung out with catcher Morgan Flores. The current Husky players and some recruits toured around Seattle, took a ferry boat ride, attended a concert, went to the football game, met the athletic director and even got to watch a softball practice and scrimmage.
“We did a lot in a little amount of time,” Kelley laughed.
It’s been an intensely busy time of life for the senior who was named a 1st Team Extra Inning Softball All-American and the Gatorade State Player of the Year after a title-winning junior season last fall.
That would just be a warm-up to the incredible 2018 the Georgia player has experienced.
In just the last four months she’s won two softball championships, was recognized as the top player in her class and took the final steps of her recruiting journey:
- In August of this year, Kelley won a club national championship as she led her Georgia Impact-Lewis team to the PGF 18U Premier title.
- In September, she started her official visits and, in order visited, Auburn, Washington, Florida and Florida State.
- On October 27, she was named by Extra Inning Softball as the #1 player in the 2019 Extra Elite 100 recruit rankings.
- On October 28, she pitched a no-hitter in the semis and then a perfect game for her East Coweta (Sharpsburg, Georgia) High team in the Georgia 7A championship.
- And, finally, late Tuesday night she called Coach Tarr and told her to expect a signed National Letter of Intent to arrive sometime early Wednesday morning West Coast time.
One of Kelley’s stated goals, perhaps her main softball aspiration, is to play in the Olympics someday. With Coach Tarr being involved with USA Softball and leading the Jr. National Team this next year, Kelley was asked if that weighed in the decision.
“No,” she said simply, “that’s not a factor.”
But what did appeal to her was being able to learn from one of the best pitchers in the college ranks, Gabby Plain, and play with talented position players like Sis Bates.
“When I was younger and going through the recruiting process, I couldn’t really relate to the college players,” Kelley remembers. “However, since I’m now a senior, when I got to Washington I saw who I’d be playing with, like Gabby for two years. Taran (Alvelo) will be graduating, but the big thing is pitching with Gabby who throws some of the best dropballs in the nation and with my riseballs I’d be a good complement.”
Asked if she’s concerned about the possibility of not being the ace for half her career, she said candidly, “I just want to win and get better. I feel like I have the best opportunity to do that at Washington.”
And not just in the pitching circle as Kelley is also a dangerous hitter. The two-way threat said that she was told by Washington--as she was by the other programs--that “I will have the opportunity to hit and even play other positions like first base, which I did in club when not pitching. That’s a big thing as I love to hit, too.”
Key to the process, she stresses, was having “important influencers” who helped her think through her priorities. The group included her mother and sister as well as Patrick Lewis, her head coach with the Impact (“and such a big influence and role model for me”), trainer and coach Lincoln Martin and high school head coach Franklin DeLoach and his staff.
“All the important people around me wanted me to make the best decision for me and asked me questions like, ‘What about the distance from home?’ and ‘Where you go to college is often where you typically live, is that area good for you?' and other good things for me to think about.”
Ultimately, everything she felt and factored in--including the distance--pointed to the Pac-12 school 2,800 miles and five hours away by plane.
Travel aside, Kelley said she’s already connected with the people there and that’s what made the difference. Case in point: when she called Coach Tarr to tell her the big news, the Husky leader went into the locker room to tell the players like Bates and Flores that the Georgia senior was committing.
“They were decorating lockers for Christmas and were really excited that I’d be signing and going there. It’s that type of reaction that makes me feel that Washington is the place for me.”