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Battle Ground softball pitcher Rylee Rehbein has major presence in the circle, despite undersized stature

Tigers senior is one of the top pitchers statewide and the team’s all-around spark plug

By , Columbian staff writer
3 Photos
Battle Ground's Rylee Rehbein winds up to throw a pitch against Union on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at Union High School.
Battle Ground's Rylee Rehbein winds up to throw a pitch against Union on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at Union High School. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BATTLE GROUND — When looking at the older, bigger, taller softball players she was competing against, Rylee Rehbein could see the obvious differences between them and her.

Rehbein was 14 years old at the time, one of the youngest players on an 18-and-under travel softball team and already on the small side for her age.

As she would later find out during the college recruiting process, the 5-foot-4 Rehbein didn’t exactly fit the mold of a physically-imposing, hard-throwing pitcher some schools were in search of.

“They definitely have a certain type they’re looking for,” Rehbein said, “… and it’s definitely, probably not going to be your 5-4, not-super-strong girl.”

Yet Rehbein wasn’t discouraged. She found plenty of other ways to be a force in the circle and at the plate.

She sought the help of multiple coaches around the country to master the art of spin and adding movement to pitches. Ahead of this spring, her senior season with the Battle Ground softball team, she hit the weight room to build strength while also leading offseason workouts with her Tigers teammates.

Then, there are the intangibles.

When Rehbein steps into her spot in the center of the infield, she becomes a spark plug, says Battle Ground head coach Jeremy Barr, and galvanizes the rest of the team with her passion for the game.

“She plays with an unbelievable joy for the game and a competitive fire, where she can have a great time while she’s an absolute bulldog in the circle,” Barr said. “(She) just works super hard, but again, she plays with such joy and love for the game that she still manages to keep all of her poise and composure and do all the things she’s supposed to do.”

In a nutshell, those are the traits that explain Rehbein, one of the state’s best pitchers regardless of classification.

The senior, who will pitch at Montana next season, has a 0.60 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 11 walks in 35 innings pitched.

She also has a .520 batting average with three home runs and 11 RBI for the Tigers (5-2).

“When she goes out, she’s slinging it and swinging it,” Barr said.

“When you get that kind of work out of a pretty small package, kids and teams don’t expect a kid that’s not as big to come out and do as well as she does on both sides of the ball.”

Six seniors graduated from last year’s Battle Ground squad that finished third at the Class 4A state tournament. Rehbein became the team’s de facto leader, and it made a lot of sense why.

At the most important spot on the field, all eyes are on Rehbein. She understands how she carries herself can be consequential for others on the field. It’s a natural position to lead from.

“You have to have energy, because everybody feeds off of you,” she said. “The other team, your own team, the people in stands, coaches, everybody feeds off of your energy. So, that can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. I take my presence in that circle very seriously. And I think if I just have good body language and it’s positive 100 percent of the time, then everybody else will feed off of that as well.”

During the offseason, when coaches are restricted from giving instruction to players, Rehbein took the lead in organizing conditioning and workout plans for the team.

She also dedicated extra time to her own workout routine in hopes of getting stronger. While going through the recruiting process, there were multiple instances where Rehbein would have contact with a school before it stopped and the school moved on to recruit other pitchers, often bigger than her.

“I can’t control my height and stuff like that,” Rehbein quipped, “so I might as well get stronger.

“It really helped my confidence, you know? Just worked every day to try and get stronger and build myself. If I’m not the first person they look at, I’ve got to draw their attention somehow.”

She also began working with Mike Muhleisen, a pitching coach based in New York, to learn the art of spinning pitches. She and her dad made two trips to the east coast for week-long stretches to train.

“It was the coolest thing ever,” Rehbein said. “Not letting the whole speed aspect hold me back, but just learning a new way to try to dominate, I think, is what really helped me.”

Rehbein later connected with Montana and head coach Melanie Meuchel. Rehbein saw a strong fit in a program where she felt like she could make a difference. She also has family in Montana. Plus, she was intrigued by the university’s well-renowned journalism program and the opportunity to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.

Rehbein announced her commitment to the Grizzlies in September and officially signed her national letter of intent two months later.

“She is knowledgeable about pitching, competitive and spins the ball really well,” Meuchel said in a November release announcing the program’s recent signees. “We continue to see her growth and her ability to spin pitches by people.”

Battle Ground didn’t get a chance to unleash Rehbein until her sophomore season in 2021 (the pandemic canceled the previous one) and not at state until last season when the traditional postseason format returned to Washington.

Rehbein has made a point of taking advantage of every game, pitch, inning and opportunity the sport gives her.

Earlier in high school, she began giving lessons to a 10-and-under softball team in Camas. Now, she serves as a pitching coach and mentor for several young players around Clark County.

She describes the experience as rewarding, especially seeing the excitement players have when they learn something new. What she didn’t expect initially, but now appreciates, is how teaching others also helped her become better at her own craft.

“To try to teach something to somebody else has really challenged me, in a way, to perfect my own pitching skill and figure out a way to explain that to someone younger,” she said.

“(I’m) fortunate to be able to have girls to give lessons to who are excited to do it every day and work hard. It’s just very cool.”