Sami Reynolds was not a member of the Washington softball team that finished 52-10 and reached the Women’s College World Series final last spring.
But Thursday’s game against Arizona won’t be her debut inside Oklahoma City’s USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Huskies’ 5-foot-4 freshman outfielder actually played in a travel tournament at the WCWS venue when she was 14 years old, on “the tiny little hometown team that my aunt coached.”
In the years since, a lot has changed.
And some things haven’t.
“I think it puts it into perspective, that it is the same game that we’ve been playing since we were younger,” Reynolds said in a phone interview from Oklahoma City, after flying out of Seattle at 4 a.m. on Monday. “The only thing that’s different is that there’s a few more people in the stands, and that’s about it.”
The game is the same.
But Reynolds isn’t the same player.
The local product isn’t the same left fielder that grew up driving 30 miles south from Snohomish to Seattle with her parents to watch Danielle Lawrie and other Husky stars. She isn’t the same prep standout who hit .462 for Snohomish High School in 2016 and was named all-state in 2017 and 2018.
Heck, she isn’t the same player who earned a starting role as a true freshman in the spring.
“Once we started conference play, there’s more scouting info,” UW coach Heather Tarr explained Monday. “There’s more info to attach your training to, more things to look for. So throughout conference play, she’s really been able to understand the game, understand how pitchers try to get you out, understand how to take pitches away from pitchers.
“There was a point in time when we were preparing for the regional and she was reviewing film and just as typical Sami would, she’s sitting there laughing at herself and laughing on behalf of the team. She was watching an opponent that we had played early in the year. She was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re such a different team.’
“In my head I’m like, ‘You’re such a different player now, too.’”
Sami Reynolds is indeed different. How many true freshmen start 54 of 57 games and hit .320 out of the three-hole, ranking first in stolen bases (9), second in RBI (40) and slugging percentage (.494) and third in home runs (4)? And how many do it on a team ranked third in the nation?
Reynolds doesn’t know the answer, and she doesn’t particularly care.
“I have high expectations for myself, but I think for me it’s just been such a fun year that I don’t really think about my individual successes,” Reynolds said. “I just think about how I can help the team in any way possible. I am so truthful when I say that every time I step on the field, it’s for my teammates and I just do my best for them.”
Reynolds’ best is better than anyone could have realistically expected. The Snohomish standout was recently named to the All-Pac-12 third team. She was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on May 6 and Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on May 13. She’s the first UW freshman to produce a four-hit game since 2012, and she has been held hitless just twice in her last 12 games.
Now, Reynolds — the same person, but a different player — will return to Hall of Fame Stadium when the third-seeded Huskies (50-7, 20-4 Pac-12) meet No. 6 seed Arizona in their WCWS opener at 9 a.m. Thursday. Her parents will be watching in person, while other family members as well as her five goats — Mo, Bo, Lo, Mary and Jerry — will tune in from western Washington.
In UW’s three-game sweep of the Wildcats on the road in early May, Reynolds collected a total of four hits with an RBI and a run scored.
She’s not the same starry-eyed 14-year-old who starred on her aunt’s Snohomish softball team and wondered what might come next.
But it’s still the same game — albeit with a few more spectators.
“It was a totally different atmosphere,” Reynolds said of her first trip to Oklahoma City. “There were no stands in the outfield. There was like maybe 100 people in the entire stands watching us play when we were young. Being in that environment, I was like, ‘Wow, it would be so cool to play here one day when I’m older. Can you imagine playing on a big stage like this?’
“Now that we actually got to go see it and walk on the field, it is such a different experience. But it’s exciting.”