By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
My assignment that 2009 spring afternoon was routine – cover a high school fastpitch softball game between Belmont and Baldwyn.
A favored Baldwyn team won, 5-3, on its home field.
An eighth grader pitching for Belmont, however, was the focus of my game story. Harlee Lynch, a 12-year-old, used a change-up and a wicked drop ball to handcuff the Lady Bearcats the first four innings.
“She had our number,” Baldwyn coach Jessica Taylor said that day. “It took us a while to catch on to her, but I’m glad we did. She was throwing hard, with movement, and was consistent.”
Baldwyn’s batters, after figuring out a pooped Lynch’s pitches, put together enough hits and runs to escape victorious.
“I’ve pitched every game we’ve played,” a frustrated Lynch said afterwards. “You get tired.”
On the bus ride home, a winless Lynch considered hanging up her glove … permanently.
“We were 0-and-8. I was at wit’s end. You work hard four or five innings and shut a team down, then you lose. I wanted to quit,” said Lynch, now playing her senior season for Belmont. “My dad showed me the article in the newspaper the next day. I started thinking, maybe I’m doing better than I thought. Knowing someone else thought I had potential helped me out a bunch.
“I decided I’d keep playing. It was one of the best decisions of my life.”
Lynch’s father, Brian, sent me an email prior to the start of the 2010 season to say a belated thanks for the “uplifting article” on his daughter.
He wrote: “She was ready to give up and not play anymore. Now that fastpitch season has started again, I can’t help but wonder if she would have quit if not for your article on her performance that night.”
Harlee Lynch will finally walk away from softball – for all the right reasons – in a few weeks to concentrate on nursing school/college. She’ll exit high school with some solid career numbers: 25-plus wins, 350-plus strikeouts and an ERA hovering around 3.00.
“Playing softball taught me a lot of life’s lessons, but there’s life after softball,” Lynch said, then smiled. “I guess everything has to end.”
Baldwyn’s Taylor has kept up with Lynch’s progress on the dirt diamond since that spring 2009 day.
“We play Belmont every year and there she is pitching,” Taylor said. “I always say, ‘I thought she’d graduated!’”
She will next month.