Getting to know Southland Academy’s Rylan Youngdale

Published 4:22 pm Monday, July 30, 2018

Americus – Southland Academy junior pitcher Rylan Youngdale is prepared to take on a leadership role on the Lady Raiders softball team this fall. Youngdale, along with juniors Hannah Mitchell and Abby Lightner, will be counted on by head coach Rusty Tondee to provide leadership for the team since there are no seniors on this year’s squad. “We don’t have any seniors on our team,” Youngdale said. “We have three juniors and Coach Tondee told the three of us to step up and act as a senior and a captain.”

Youngdale was a starting pitcher on Southland’s B Team last year as a sophomore. “The varsity had two senior pitchers last year. They took on that role for the whole season because they were both really good,” Youngdale said. “I pitched for our B Team last year.”

Youngdale has gotten to this point through hard work and dedication, but, as with everything in life, there is a beginning: the beginning of a journey through the experiences of life that shape a person into who they are today. The same is true for Rylan Youngdale.

Youngdale sat down with the Americus Times-Recorder to discuss her life in general and her success in softball. Youngdale is the younger sister of former Southland standout wrestler Morgan Youngdale. She has two younger sisters: Camie Cochran (12) and Camille Cochran (9) and has a younger brother, eight-year-old Charlie Kellam.

Rylan Youngdale taking a break while she gets ready for the next game.
Submitted Photo

According to Youngdale, she started playing baseball when she was in second grade. “They just put me in the outfield because I was playing with boys and they were a lot better than me. When I got old enough to play softball, I just moved over there when I was in third grade,” Youngdale said. “I started pitching in fifth grade, I think. I’ve been doing that ever since.”

Youngdale went on to say that pitching is definitely her favorite position. Youngdale has excelled at softball ever since.

Renae Kellam, Youngdale’s mother, said that Rylan has always been athletic. “I can remember that she was also taking dance lessons,” Kellam said. “There were several days that we went straight from the dance studio to the ball field and she would still have on her pink tights under her white baseball pants. She has always been athletic and has done a lot. She has done a little bit of everything and weeded out what she didn’t like. I think softball has become her primary focus the last couple of years.”

Like all kids playing high school sports, Youngdale has to first take care of business in the class room. When asked what her favorite academic subjects are, at first, she replied jokingly “none of them, maybe Weight Training. I really do not have a favorite subject.” However, as he thought a little more, she said that she enjoyed Algebra II. “Algebra II was fun because we had a really good teacher: Nikki Hoffman,” Youngdale said. As far as hobbies outside of school and sports, Youngdale enjoys playing with her three younger siblings: Camie, Camille and Charlie: “I like to do stuff with them all the time because it’s hard to keep them busy,” Youngdale said. Youngdale is also heavily involved with the youth group at Americus First United Methodist Church. “I’m involved with our leadership team at church,” Youngdale said. “We hang out a lot as a group of friends because we’re all close friends, even outside of church. During the school year, we’ll have 60 or 70 kids come down to where we meet. We call it the Foundry. We hang out there all the time.” Youngdale went on to say that her friend and teammate, Hannah Mitchell. Leads in worship. She also said that the group does a lot of ministry work with the children’s program at the church, as well as ministry opportunities with the youth group.

As far as her favorite foods are concerned, Youngdale said she loves chicken, pasta and steak. While she loves sports, Rylan Youngdale likes to take a break from time to time to watch television shows. “The Office is a favorite of mine,” Youngdale said. “I also like Grey’s Anatomy. I’m still watching that. There are so many seasons, but The Office is, for sure, my favorite show ever.” Another one of Youngdale’s hobbies is drawing, even though she says she’s not really good at it.

Youngdale has decided to primarily concentrate on softball at Southland, but she has played other sports there in the past. “I’ve been on the cheer squad. I’ve played soccer. I ran track. I played basketball. I’ve done everything at Southland except for tennis. I don’t think I have a shot at tennis at all,” Youngdale said. Youngdale went on to say that she ran cross country in middle school. “I’ve done just about everything, but I just like softball the most,” Youngdale said. “Since I pitch, I do that all year long with lessons and practices, so I just stuck to softball.”

Youngdale, a rising junior, has two more years of high school softball to go. So far, her greatest memory as a Lady Raider was when she was in eighth grade. “Back when I was in eighth grade, we played Westfield, who was super-good. They won state last year,” Youngdale said. “Our C Team beat them after they had been undefeated for three-years straight. That was cool. It has not happened since then at all.”

Youngdale said that she has really enjoyed her time playing for head coach Rusty Tondee. “I’ve never played for anyone else on varsity because during my freshman year, I wasn’t on the varsity team with John Brady,” Youngdale said. “I haven’t really known anything else besides playing varsity for Coach Tondee. He makes it fun. He’s not so uptight all the time. He can make it fun and more relaxed at practice sometimes, but during game time, he’s serious. He just wants the best for all of us.” Renae Kellam added that Youngdale also has a special relationship with Melvin Kinslow as well, being that Kinslow has helped Youngdale with her pitching.

However, according to Ross Youngdale, her first pitching coaches were Sam Tracey and Alex Riccardi, and her current pitching coach is Sarah Purvis.

Youngdale said that she would like to play softball in college. She said she would like to go to a college that is a long way from home. “It would be nice if I was offered a scholarship to play softball,” Youngdale said. “I want to be two hours or more away from Americus when I go to college just because Americus is so small. I just want to go to a place where not everybody knows who you are. I want to go somewhere bigger where people aren’t into your business all of the time. It would be nice to play in college for sure.” Youngdale plans to major in Early Childhood Education while in college and wants to become an elementary school teacher after graduation. “I want to teach probably second or third grade,” Youngdale said. Youngdale, who has attended Southland since Kindergarten, said that her favorite teacher was her Kindergarten teacher, Nancy Hayes. “Every time I see her, she still gives me a big hug. I love her,” Youngdale said.

Youngdale’s father, Ross Youngdale, said that he is very proud of the years of work that his daughter has put in. “I know that she is trying really hard to be able to continue to prolong her softball career,” Ross Youngdale said. “Where ever that takes her, that’s where we’ll go. I think that she’s a great role model for Charlie, Camie and Camille. While she does play older sister sometimes, she does a really good job taking care of them and showing them a good example in a lot of ways.”

The Lady Raiders have already played several scrimmage games to get ready for the season. “We’ve scrimmaged a lot of teams during the pre-season. I think we’ve played seven scrimmage games,” Youngdale said. Youngdale knows that when she is on the mound for Southland, she needs to come through with a solid performance for her team to have a chance to win. However, she realizes that she can’t do it alone. “It doesn’t matter how good a day I have on the mound,” Youngdale said. “I’m nothing without the team on the field with me.”

Southland begins their season playing in a round-robin tournament at Trinity Christian School in Dublin on Friday, August 3. It will be a triple-header. Youngdale will make her debut for the varsity when she pitches in Game 1 of the tournament against Edmund Burke Academy at 12 p.m. The Lady Raiders will then play Brentwood at 2 p.m., followed by a game against Trinity Christian at 4:30 p.m.

A year ago, the Lady Raiders qualified for the GISA Class AAA state playoffs, but were knocked out in the first round by Pinewood Christian. Coach Tondee and the Lady Raiders are looking to go further this year, and Rylan Youngdale will play a key role in Southland’s success.