After Storied UW Career, Baylee Klingler Makes Impact In WPF
When Baylee Klingler stepped up to the plate against McNeese hurler Ashley Vallejo in the top of the seventh inning on May 21, a lot was on the line. Not only were the Huskies down to their last out of the season, but Klingler’s storied college career—which started four years ago in her native state of Texas—was also down to its last out.
At that moment, instead of focusing on all the pressures at hand, Klingler let go. She let go of “the attachment of winning the whole game,” focused on where her feet were and enjoyed the moment. Because, according to her, “statistically and realistically, the odds weren’t in our favor in terms of winning.”
As it turned out, the last page of her collegiate career had more than a few paragraphs left in it. Klingler hit a slow roller to the shortstop, who then tried for the force out at second base, but the speedy Megan Vandegrift beat the throw, keeping the inning alive. Fellow fifth-year Sami Reynolds then cleared the bases with a three-run double in the gap, turning what was a seemingly insurmountable six-run deficit to begin the inning into a tie game. Madison Huskey, yet another fifth-year, followed with a go-ahead double just beyond the center fielder’s grasp, and the Huskies held on for a remarkable, odds-defying 7-6 win.
“I think everything worked out for the best in a lot of ways, not just because we won,” said Klingler. “It was a really special game and memory for me.”
Fast forward one month and Klingler is now making new memories for herself, this time as a professional softball player. In the first official season of Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF), Klingler currently ranks third in the league in hits with 15 and batting average, hitting .333 so far this season.
She is also a member of the league’s leading team, the Texas Smoke. In 13 games so far in their inaugural season, the Smoke have a 10-3 record and have outscored their opponents by 30 runs. It is a squad that is well-balanced with both pitching and hitting. Samantha Show ranks first in the league in ERA (1.14), while former Minnesota Gopher Autumn Pease leads the team in strikeouts with 21. On the offensive side, Janae Jefferson is both the league leader and team leader in hits with 19, closely followed by teammate Charla Echols, who has 14 hits of her own.
Overall, it was a quick transition to the pros for Klingler. After departing the Women’s College World Series with her teammates, she officially signed with the Smoke one week later. Four days after that, she played in her first professional softball game and picked up two hits and a walk.
The quick transition from college to the pros, according to Klingler, was actually a gift.
“I think it’s a blessing just to keep the flow going and keeping it light,” said Klingler. “I think sometimes with a big break you kind of totally check out of softball for a minute. But it’s been nice to get back into it and then being in a new city, too, feels fresh and new.”
Klingler leaves Washington's program as a three-time All-American, the 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year and Triple Crown Winner and ranks second all-time in program history in batting average (.420). She joins a list of program alumnae who are household names in the sport: Sis Bates, Ali Aguilar, Danielle Lawrie, Gabbie Plain, Victoria Hayward, Sara Pickering and, of course, head coach Heather Tarr. To be listed among players such as those is an honor for Klingler.
“I’m just really grateful that I was able to be inspired by everyone around me,” said Klingler. “Those things don’t happen without that inspiration and support, so I just truly feel nothing but gratitude towards everyone at the heart of my journey at Washington.”
And for younger players who are set to begin their own collegiate careers, Klingler has some simple advice: have fun.
“It’s super easy to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders,” said Klingler. “But this is a game and it’s a game we love and pour a lot of passion into, but it’s about having fun and just trying to focus on the little things that fill and feed our souls and keep us happy.”