Never Satisfied: Kelley Lynch Named 2019 Gatorade National Player Of The Year
Update: Kelley Lynch was named Gatorade's Female Athlete of the Year on Tuesday, July 9.
When Kelley Lynch was in fifth grade, she attended a Jennie Finch softball camp. Seven years later, that camp experience came full circle while she was helping with a youth baseball camp at East Coweta High in Sharpsburg, Ga.
Head coach Franklin DeLoach, who is also the ECHS softball coach, ended the camp with an award ceremony for the campers. After recognizing the kids in attendance, he addressed the crowd with a speech about Lynch.
That’s when Jennie Finch walked onto the field.
“I had no idea,” Lynch said about seeing Finch. “We were handing out awards and my head coach came out and said we had one more award to give out and starts talking about me. Then, Jennie comes out with the trophy and it was really exciting.”
The trophy was for the 2019 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year.
“This is one of the coolest things that I get to do because it’s celebrating a future champion and a champion not only on the field, but in the classroom and in the community,” said Finch about presenting the award. “(She’s) just a great person overall and it’s always a thrill for me.”
Lynch has been an inspiration for softball players, parents and fans across the country. Earlier this year, she was named Softball America’s No. 1 recruit for the class of 2019. She also opened up about the loss of her father and how his memory influences her to this day.
It’s his legacy that pushed Lynch to be named the 2018 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year, lead East Coweta to back-to-back state titles, earn a spot on the United States Junior Women’s National Team and get recruited to the University of Washington, where she will begin her collegiate career in the fall.
“Kelley Lynch is only scratching the surface of showing the world how good she is,” said UW and USJWNT head coach Heather Tarr. “She is a two-way player who will make a big impact on our program. She is a tough competitor, not just on the field, but in the classroom, in the community, and in life. We are proud to call her a Husky.”
As a senior, Lynch was 17–0 with a 0.27 earned run average. When she wasn’t in the circle, she started at shortstop with a .436 batting average, three home runs and 25 RBIs.
“I love seeing pitchers hit and playing defense,” said Finch about Lynch’s abilities. “I looked up to Lisa Fernandez growing up. Not only was she the best but she played third base, she hit, she pitched. It’s exciting seeing these athletes coming up and not only doing one thing but being diverse and being able to help their team out. She’s after my own heart when I found out she was a position player and hits too.”
Lynch was originally committed to Auburn before a coaching change occurred in 2017. She never thought she would be moving across the country to attend college, but the incoming freshman believes Seattle is a perfect fit for her.
“I think there’s definitely room for more growth for sure,” she said. “I’m really excited. It’s starting to get real that I’m moving across the country, but overall, I’m just excited to start this new chapter.”
Georgia is one of six states that plays high school softball in the fall, and it is not considered in the national top 25 rankings because of it. But by winning this award, Lynch makes a clear statement that anything is possible if one works hard enough.
“It’s an example to be set that it can happen for us,” Lynch said. “It’s a huge honor and (for me) it’s really encouraging to keep working hard. I feel like a lot of times when people reach the highest they think they can go, they sit back and take it all in, but you have to keep working.”
Even with the honor and a long list of accolades, Lynch is never satisfied. She strives to be better with every pitch she throws and every game she plays in.
"Gatorade does such a tremendous job of finding the best of the best," said Finch. "It’s the beginning of something amazing (for her)."