Kelley Lynch Will Fulfill A Legacy At Washington
Tucked behind East Coweta High School, just over 30 miles southwest of Atlanta, sits a softball field.
It’s not immediately visible from the front entrance of the school. But drive past the baseball field and the football stadium and you’ll reach the home of the Lady Indians softball team, sitting small and unassuming in the shade of the Georgia pines.
Here, Kelley Lynch, a pitcher and infielder, spent four years playing high school softball, winning two straight state championships for the Indians in 2017 and 2018. In fall 2019, Lynch will trade her East Coweta purple for the purple of the University of Washington, where she signed to play college softball.
Playing for the Huskies meant fulfilling a dream, not only for Lynch, but for someone else, too. On the back of her right forearm is a tattoo, denoting in roman numerals the date her father, Steve, died: March 7, 2012. It reminds her of his influence, and his advice to always be a leader instead of a follower.
“Definitely, when he passed away. . . that was kind of a pusher for me to try harder, be better, just cause his dream for me and my sister was always to play D-I softball,” Lynch said.
Her older sister, Katey, a catcher at Kennesaw State, accomplished the goal first, and now Lynch has followed suit.
“His memory and legacy just continues to live on, but I know that's what motivates them, as well, to do what they do,” their mother, Jan Lynch, said. “He loved the game and loved his girls more than anything.”
East Coweta softball coach Franklin DeLoach watched Lynch grow up through the years, starting on the junior varsity team in eighth grade, playing varsity her freshman year and progressively improving each year of high school. Before her senior year, Lynch already had her rise ball, her difference-making pitch, but over the summer, she added another pitch to the mix.
“I never thought she could get a whole lot better from her junior year to this past season, but she did,” DeLoach said. “She developed a wicked changeup, which she never really threw a whole lot coming in.”
While Lynch didn’t sign with the Huskies until November 2018, her recruiting process began long before then. She started taking recruiting visits in eighth grade, ultimately committing to Auburn. She chose to reopen her recruiting process this fall in the wake of a coaching change at Auburn in 2017.
At nearly every game Lynch played last fall, there was at least one Power 5 coach in attendance, DeLoach said. After visiting Washington, Lynch knew it was the place for her.
“She's the best I've seen,” said DeLoach. “Not just coached, best I've seen in high school. Been coaching 20-some years. She's the real deal.”
From winning Gatorade Georgia Softball Player of the Year her junior year, to winning the Premier Girls Fastpitch 18U National Championship in 2018 with the Georgia Impact, to being selected for the 2019 United States Junior Women’s National Team, Lynch’s list of accolades goes on and on. But to DeLoach, it’s more than her on-field accomplishments that distinguish her.
DeLoach remembers after East Coweta won the state championship in 2018, one of the Power 5 coaches in attendance texted him a congratulatory message. Along with the message, he sent a video he had taken of Lynch after one of the state tournament games in Columbus got rained out. The field was muddy, so Lynch stepped away to pick up one of her coaches’ young daughters and carried her across the field, helping her stay out of the mud.
“She is extremely special, Coach,” the coach wrote to DeLoach.
“That’s the kind of quiet confidence that she exudes,” DeLoach said. “It's that giving attitude, not too big for anybody, not too big or too mighty to take a little girl and pick her up so she doesn’t get drenched in the mud and in the water cause it's starting to pour down rain. . . that’s what makes No. 10 special.”
Those qualities DeLoach observed are reflected in Lynch’s own priorities for herself, which she intends to abide by in her college career at Washington and in working toward her goal of competing in the 2024 Olympics.
“Keep your faith first, your school second and your sport third,” Lynch said. “Because at the end of the day, your sport is more of a hobby, and you’ve got to keep other things prioritized.”