By TED RADICK
Emily Reynolds wasn’t going to let her chance to face a world-class pitcher go by with the bat on her shoulder.
The Elmwood alum and recent University of Findlay graduate was at the plate in Tuesday’s second game of an exhibition doubleheader against the U.S. national team at the Marathon Diamonds.
On the mound? Jolene Henderson, a 2013 California graduate and three-time first-team Pac-10 all-conference selection. Henderson won 130 games in her collegiate career and struck out 1,124 batters.
Reynolds heard as much as saw the first two pitches whiz past her for strikes as she led off the fifth inning.
“The first two pitches, I probably shouldn’t say the bad words but I thought ‘Holy crap,’” Reynolds said. “And then, I just thought ‘I’m going to swing my bat. What would it hurt to swing my bat?’ And the next pitch, I got a hit.”
Reynolds didn’t score as Team USA beat a group of Ohio collegiate all-stars 3-0 and 5-0 in the doubleheader, but the experience meant a lot to her and fellow former UF players Jackie Messersmith, a Mohawk alum, and Tori Allen.
All three played, with Allen and Reynolds pinch-running in the first game. In the second game, Messersmith got the start at third base and played four innings, Reynolds got her single and Allen played second base for a couple innings.
Messersmith was hit by a pitch from Team USA game two starter Jaclyn Traina, a University of Alabama senior who was a first-team NCAA Division I All-American this spring. Allen struck out in her fifth-inning at-bat against Henderson.
“Even playing with Division I players was great, but playing against these guys was unbelievable,” Reynolds said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
“When I was little, starting out, I wanted to play for the USA team,” Messersmith said. “This is a close as I’m going to get. It’s definitely something to cross off the bucket list.”
The trio of Oilers, who each completed her eligibility this spring, tried to revel in the moment. Admittedly, it wasn’t easy.
“When we came in here today, I told Jackie and Tori ‘I feel little next to these guys,’ talking about the Division I players on our team.” Reynolds said. “I’m one of the biggest girls on our team. It’s intimidating seeing all of them, I mean, facing J-Train (Traina). I told Tori, ‘I just watched this girl last week in the College World Series and now I’m going to hit against her.’
“It’s intimidating, but it’s also humbling knowing I can come out and play with these girls and get a hit, or get on base or play defense.”
Allen agreed the idea of facing Team USA’s talented pitching was the most intimidating aspect.
“You don’t see that in the GLIAC,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a big accomplishment to show what we’re about at Findlay. This is the last time we’ll play, and it was a good opportunity to come out here.”
Reynolds, at first, thought the whole idea of playing in Tuesday’s exhibitions was a practical joke by UF softball coach Ron Ammons.
“I actually got an e-mail from coach a few weeks ago that asked me if I wanted to play, and I emailed him back and asked ‘Coach, is this a joke?’
“I thought he was kidding.”
It turned out to be a fine send off for a trio of UF players who won 50 games the past two seasons and helped turned the Oiler program into a consistently competitive squad.
“It’s a big accomplishment not only for us, but for our entire Findlay team trying to get our name out there,” Allen said.
“Never in a million years would I have dreamed I’d be stepping on the same field as Team USA,” Reynolds added.
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