Most successful batting line-ups in softball have one thing in common, a dependable lead-off hitter.
A strong lead-off batter can ignite the offense and get things going in a positive direction.
There is no question that a lot of the reason Yukon softball is having a strong season is senior Rylee Uhr.
Uhr is batting .458 on the season but more importantly, the senior speedster has a .533 on-base percentage.
The Millers had a record of 21-1-1 going into Thursday, and Uhr’s ability to get on base is one of the reasons Yukon has had success.
“Rylee (Uhr) has been huge for us this year,” Yukon coach Heather Shanahan said. “She has been a staple in this program for four years. She gets things started for us. It’s very beneficial to have a player like her at the top of the line-up. We are fortunate to have her in our program. We will miss her next year.”
Uhr is no stranger to getting things started on offense. The starting centerfielder has been the lead-off hitter for the Millers since her sophomore year and as a freshman, she was the nine-hole hitter, which is widely considered to be the “second lead-off hitter” in the line-up.
“A lot of people think there is a lot of pressure with being the lead-off hitter,” Uhr said. “But I don’t think of it that way. I take it 60-feet at a time. I use my speed and different methods to get on base. I just take it one bat at a time and don’t overthink it.”
As a left-handed batter, Uhr has the ability to go with the traditional hitting stance and swing, and also can become a “slap-hitter”.
A “slap-hitter” in softball is a left-handed batter, who has speed and exceptional bat-control. They can get a running start in the batter’s box as they are swinging and control where the ball is going to go based on where the defense is playing. The downside to being a “slap-hitter” is it takes power out of the swing. It is strictly used to get on base and mostly used by lead-off hitters.
“I have always been a ‘slap-hitter’,’ Uhr said. “I am a natural left-hander, so I am able to mix in both slap and traditional hitting.”
Another part of Uhr’s game that is vital to being a good lead-off hitter is the ability to bunt.
“A lot of people think I know what I am going to do when I get into the batter’s box,” Uhr said. “Honestly, I just read the defense and let the situation we are in with the game dictate what I am going to do. I get in the box and I read the defense. If they are playing back, a lot of times I will lay a bunt down but if they are playing up, I go with the hard swing.”
Uhr’s success at Yukon has garnered a lot of attention from college softball programs. The senior has several softball scholarship offers she will choose from, but Uhr said she is focused on her high school season right now.
On top of playing for Yukon, Uhr, 18, plays club softball as well. She plays with teammate and fellow senior Aleyah Holman for the Exclusive. Uhr has been playing softball since she was four years old.
The Yukon senior said she doesn’t have a lot of free time with school and softball but when she does have some time to kill, she enjoys going out and running.
“I like to run long-distances,” Uhr said. “My dad is big into running and he trains for marathons, so I go out and run with him while he is training. I will also occasionally run in 5k’s if I can.”
With the 6A regional tournaments and state tournament looming, Uhr said she knows the Millers can achieve their goals and win a state championship.
“We just have to play as a team, stay together and take it one game at a time,” Uhr said.
If Yukon does indeed put together a postseason run and goes on to the win the 6A softball state title, there is no question that Uhr will be a key factor for the Millers.