LIMA — Kimmy Reynolds remembers her first varsity pitching start, nearly to the day — it was either a Tuesday or a Thursday, she’s not 100 percent sure.
But she remembers it was against West Liberty-Salem, early in her freshman season. She started out anxious, she struggled and Bath’s softball team lost.
“I was really nervous the first inning or so,” Reynolds recalls. “Camille (Martin) talked to me. She was like, ‘Just play ball. Don’t worry about anything else, just play ball.’ ”
Since that game a touch more than four years ago, Reynolds hasn’t just played ball, she’s made it sizzle, dance and disappear right before an opposing batter’s eye. And the losses … they’ve been few and far between.
When her career as a four-year pitching ace for Bath concludes this spring, she’ll own many Bath pitching records — including five perfect games in one season her junior year. And although complete career stats won’t be available till the end of this season, her 2014 campaign has been astounding.
Reynolds is 14-1 with 102.2 innings pitched. She’s given up just 71 hits, 27 runs, has struck out 156 batters and walked only 28 and has a miniscule ERA of 1.171.
“The mound is my home,” Reynolds said. “I get out there and know Jules (catcher Julia Miller) is there and everybody in the field is there and that they’ll work as hard as they can to win.”
The Wildkittens have done plenty of winning this season. They’re unbeaten in the league, 7-0 and 15-1 overall, and on track to win their WBL-best 20th title heading into the final week of the league schedule.
And while it’s difficult for any high school athlete to become a standout, it’s especially hard to produce an historic career for a program with a tradition like Bath softball. A program with a 2001 state title, a runner-up showing at state and six overall trips to the state tournament, not to mention all the district crowns and WBL banners.
“Bath softball is known all around and it’s hitting me now how much it’s a big deal,” Reynolds said. “It’s a tradition of excellence, it really is.”
And if one position stands out the most it’s the pitching spot. Reynolds herself has followed in the recent footsteps dominating hurlers like Martin, who shared time with Reynolds her freshman year, Shelby Snyder and current head coach Hannah Slavin, who pitched for Bath from 2003-06 before a stellar career at the University of Toledo.
“It’s kind of been a Bath legacy Coach (Laura) Ford had,” Slavin said. “We’ve had several pitchers who started as freshman and sophomores and held the ace spot all the way through. But Kimmy has held a really high standard here that she’s willing to work hard and make sure she owns the position.”
Slavin, in her first year as Bath head coach, said Reynolds’ senior-presence in the circle has been a giant help.
“It’s huge, Coach Ford was kind enough not to leave the cupboard bare,” Slavin said. “With Kimmy on the mound, Julia (Miller) behind the plate and the defense behind her … they have a great working relationship. Kimmy knows all the girls have her back and she’s working for them.”
If Reynolds has helped Slavin, the coach has certainly repaid the debt. In fact, Reynolds has been surrounded by pitching experience and knowledge her whole career, with plenty of advice and help from Slavin and assistant coach Tia Brenning, also a former Bath star pitcher.
“If one of us can’t explain it the right way, the other one can,” Slavin said. “She gets to hear it from both sides, the working relationship there is nothing but positive.”
A year ago, Reynolds broke the school record with five perfect games and led Bath to the regional semifinals. She then spent the offseason running cross country and fine-tuning her pitching, working diligently to develop a changeup.
The addition of a changeup gives her a ridiculous amount of pitches: A fastball, dropball, curve, rise, screwball and changeup. Slavin said the addition of the changeup has made her an even bigger threat, keeping batters off-balance.
However, the biggest improvement may not be about what she’s throwing, but what goes into throwing them.
“The mental side has been one of her biggest things,” Slavin said. “She’s learned how to be the best pitcher she can by learning batters and learning counts and situational things. She knows the right pitch to throw in the right situation.”
And the fiercely competitive Reynolds has learned to keep her cool.
“Coach, Shelby, Camille, they’ve all told me, ‘Don’t let your emotions get you in trouble, keep your emotions in check, you’re there to be focused and be strong, go to the next pitch and don’t worry about what’s going on,’” Reynolds said.
That type of focus has carried her through an outstanding senior campaign as Bath nears another WBL title and looks what it hopes will be a long tournament run. And though she’s still considering where she might pitch in college, she’s trying not to think about the end of an incredible high school career.
“It hasn’t set in yet,” she said. “It hasn’t really hit me. It’s been a great, great ride.”