Lynden softball third baseman Kaylee Vis didn’t get to play her sophomore year. Her first year of high school softball had “messed up” her wrist.
Doctors would have to reconstruct nearly the entire wrist over the next two years. She had two wrist surgeries before her junior season and started the season off slow.
By the end of last year, she had emerged into a key contributor, driving in the first two runs of the Lions’ state opening-round win over Ellensburg.
“That was really cool,” Vis said in a phone interview. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”
That confidence has led to Vis being a star third baseman and five-hole hitter for the Class 2A State Tournament-bound Lions, despite another surgery following her junior year. State will begin Friday, May 29, at Carlon Park in Selah, where Lynden will take on Olympic in the first round.
“Last year it was a work in progress,” Lions coach Steve Petersen said in a phone interview. “About district time, she took a huge step forward. ... Since then, she’s been a player who I think is almost as valuable as anyone we have in the grand scheme of things.”
While Vis has hit above .450 all season, and has an excellent on-base percentage, Petersen said, she performs even better in clutch situations.
She seems to have a knack for key hits, hitting two doubles and scoring the only run in Lynden’s district title win over Anacortes.
“She’s pretty even-keeled and stays the same in every situation,” Petersen said. “But she seems to hit the best in the biggest games.”
Stepping up when others aren’t is the benefit of having six seniors on the roster, all of which are starters.
“We always know when one senior is having a bad day, there are other seniors to fall back on for leadership,” Vis said.
And it’s this senior class that has really changed the fate of the Lynden softball program.
In the four years prior to two-year starter Vis, three-year starters Hannah Rothwell and Jenna Bonsen and four-year starters Mandy Warner and Tanna Benson arrived, the Lions went 41-53. Since then, Lynden is 82-21, including 22-1 this year after adding senior Sara Collins.
“The group before them worked really hard to be competitive. This group helped turn the corner from being competitive to a step beyond competitive,” Petersen said. “They love the game. When they’re out there, they’re not thinking about something else. They’re a tough-minded group of kids.”
Highlighting that tough-mindedness is Vis, whose return from surgeries was no easy task.
“I worked really hard to get back at it. I always had my teammates help,” said Vis, who will play softball for Skagit Valley Community College with Warner next season. “It was the team mostly (why I came back). I love being a part of it. We all get to go out and play the game we all love.”
After finishing last year in third place at state, the Lions look to be even better this year — the growth of the team following the same path as the development of Vis, whose bat not only continues to get better but her glove as well.
In summer league, Petersen started to notice the change in the field. She was always a good fielder with a strong arm, but she’s developed better ability to field bunts and captain the hot corner.
“Kaylee, you’re turning into a monster out there,” Vis said of what she heard from her coach over the summer.
With the glove of Vis, a deep lineup and a star pitcher in Benson, the Lions appear poised for a deep run.