20 for ‘20: Swanton utility player Ulch a true student of softball
By Mark Monroe / The Blade
Sat, 23 May 2020 13:00:00 GMT
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The Blade is featuring 20 spring sports seniors from 20 different schools whose final seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is the final story in the 20-part series.
The ultimate utility player, Swanton senior Kylie Ulch played every position except pitcher during her high school career.
A thorough student of the game, Ulch knows what each player must do on every play. The Siena Heights University recruit also put up tremendous numbers at the plate.
As a junior, Ulch finished with a .610 batting average while splitting time as first and third baseman.
“I just love the atmosphere of being in the game,” Ulch said. “I'm always alert. I know what's going on everywhere in the field. I will sit there during every situation and think of the different plays each player has to make. I'm always thinking of ways I can help my team.”
Swanton coach Joe Nye called Ulch the most talented player to come out of the Bulldogs program.
“Kylie loves softball. She has a tremendous knowledge of the game,” Nye said. “She brought a tremendous work ethic with her to practice and games and she really supported the younger players. Kylie also spent hours at home hitting off the tee in her garage, and it showed in big games.”
Ulch earned All-Northwest Ohio Athletic League and all-district first team honors as a junior. The infielder led the NWOAL in hitting, while she drove in 45 runs and scored 47.
“She's a tremendous No. 3 hitter,” Nye said. “She had one of the top batting averages in the state. She can play multiple positions and is such a clutch hitter.”
Ulch started on the varsity as a freshman at catcher. She also was a backstop during her sophomore season in which she batted .545 with 20 RBIs and earned All-NWOAL second team honors.
“I go up to the plate every time with the mentality that I will get a hit,” Ulch said. “I put my mind to it. I want to be able to place the ball wherever I want to.”
Ulch said she prefers playing the hot corner because of its intense demands.
“I love third base, because I like being in the action,” Ulch said. “I like making the snags, those ESPN moments. I like the adrenaline rush.”
Ulch, who also played basketball and was on the bowling team at Swanton, said she started playing softball at age 5. By the second grade she knew she wanted to play the sport in college and dedicated herself to learning the intricacies of the game.
“If there is a softball game on TV or streaming I will watch it. I love watching the College World Series. I like following Oklahoma,” she said. “I would go watch Siena Heights play fall ball.”
Ulch said her father Chuck encouraged her to pursue her dreams of playing in college.
“He knew since 10U that I would go far,” Ulch said. “It kind of all really started in 12U, on our travel team. After we won a championship game against Liberty Center, my dad sat down with me and said, 'You have a really big talent here.'”
Ulch's father coached several of her travel teams.
“I give him most of the credit. He coaches me to be the best I can be and always believed in me. He's my No. 1 supporter,” Ulch said. “My dad is not an emotional guy. But the day I signed my letter of intent, he cried. He saw his little girl grow up and finally achieve her dreams.”
Ulch also credited her travel coaches, as well as Nye and Swanton assistant Mike Eitniear in high school.
“I want to thank them for all they did for me,” Ulch said. “Coach Nye really understands me and he pushed me. If I was upset, he would make me laugh. He treated me like one of his family. Coach Eitniear helped me focus on the plays. He opened up my eyes that I had this talent. He told me to keep working hard and that I could go play in college.”
Ulch also left her mark on a Swanton program she helped turn around. She helped build the participation numbers up while the Bulldogs set a school record for wins in a season with 19 last spring.
“That means the world to me,” Ulch said.
Swanton won a Division III sectional title and made the program's first district appearance in many years last season.
“She along with the other seniors have elevated this program to respectability. They will always mean a lot to us,” Nye said. “She played very well against good teams.”
Ulch and Nye were looking forward to another promising season before the Ohio High School Athletic Association was forced to cancel all spring sports due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This would have been my best team,” said Nye, who was entering his 11th season.
Ulch added: “I was thinking at the beginning of the season that our team had enough talent to win the league, and so I made that was our goal. Everyone was on the same page.”
Ulch said she and her teammates were working hard to prepare for the season.
“When it all started I thought it just gave us more time to work on our skills by ourselves,” Ulch said. “When coach told me the season was canceled, I cried about it. I was really upset.”
Yet Ulch said she quickly recovered, knowing she would be able to continue to play the sport in which she invested so much time at Siena Heights, where she plans to study child development.
“I just started focusing on how to improve myself. I'm working on getting myself better,” Ulch said.
Last season, Ulch set a goal not to strike out more than five times. She struck out four times.
“I would say my strength is my dedication,” Ulch said. “I do put a lot into the game. When I get in that zone, I'm really in it.”