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BACK IN TUNE: Karns City Junior Lyrik Reed Rounding Back Into Form on Softball Field After Missing a Year With Thumb Injury

KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Lyrik Reed sprinted after the softball, determined to snag it.

When she reached it, she gathered it up gracefully and trotted back to the Karns City dugout.

There was one problem. All that happened off the field. Reed’s role as a freshman on the Gremlins’ softball team two years ago was reduced to gopher — collecting foul balls — because of a torn ligament in her right thumb.

(Pictured above, Karns City’s Lyrik Reed is looking for a big season, two years removed from missing her entire freshman campaign because of a serious thumb injury/photo by Holly Mead.)

It was an excruciating year for Reed, who was a part of the team, sitting in the dugout and chasing foul balls during games, but unable to play in them.

“It was terrible,” Reed said. “I was watching everyone play. We won the district championship. We won a state playoff game, and I missed out on all of that. It was pretty heartbreaking.”

Reed, who had been looking forward to playing high school softball, had that derailed when she was plunked by a pitch on the hand late in the travel ball season.

She thought it was just a sprain, but when it didn’t respond to treatment, she knew it was more serious.

An MRI confirmed her worst fear. A ligament had torn away from the bone and it required reconstructive surgery to repair — a procedure that would keep her out of action in the spring of 2022.

Karns City softball coach Mike Stitt felt Reed’s pain.

He and his staff, too, were looking forward to seeing what Reed could do on the field as a freshman, mixed in with a slew of bedrock seniors.

“Oh, it was devastating news,” Stitt said. “You watch them come up, especially when you have the expectation of that freshman coming in and knowing what she can do. You see the devastated look on her face and it just kills you as a coach.”

Reed returned last season and by all measurables had a standout debut campaign as a sophomore.

Reed batted .450 with 24 runs scored, six walks and just four strikeouts in 68 plate appearances for Karns City. She also swiped a team-leading seven bases.

But to Reed, those numbers were disappointing.

She expected more.

“I’ve always been competitive and hard on myself,” Reed said. “But I think that’s what has made me who I am.”

Reed is hoping to recapture some of that old form she displayed before her injury.

She said that is very much been a work in progress.

“I was better before I had my surgery,” Reed said. “I sat and wasn’t able to touch a ball for so long. I still have a lot of building up to go, but I’d say as of right now, I feel pretty solid and I feel pretty confident. I’m confident in my team, so that’s helped a lot. But I still have a lot of room to grow.”

“I still feel like I’m not there yet,” she added. “I look at everyone else and I feel like I’m still so far behind them. I feel very behind.”

Stitt doesn’t share that tough assessment.

This year, he’s putting her at shortstop and batting her at the top of the lineup, hoping to use her ability to make contact and speed to set the table for a murderers’ row of big hitters in the middle of a very potent Karns City lineup.

“She performed well at the top of the lineup last year,” Stitt said. “I have a lot of expectations for her, not only to be a leader, but to be one in that leadoff spot. Get on.”

There should be plenty of opportunities for Reed to get on and come around to score.

Karns City scored runs in bunches last season, scoring 178 runs in 16 games and batting .371 as a team.

Pitching and defense were the Gremlin bugaboos last season. But Stitt believes with players like Reed shoring up the defense, that won’t be such a glaring issue this year.

“We put up 31 runs in one game, but defensively, we weren’t there last year,” Stitt said. “We had a lot of new girls playing. We hit the ball. We can go toe to toe with anybody with the girls we have coming back.”

Reed has even worked some as a pitcher.

But she said to not expect to see her in any pressure situations.

“I’m kind of the last resort,” Reed said, laughing.

That’s not her wheelhouse, anyway.

Hitting is and she will be at the top of a lineup that could be very special this season.

Karns City has already shown a glimpse of that. The Gremlins squeezed in the first game of the season on March 15 before the weather turned in a 5-2 loss to Mercer and its ace pitcher, Angelina Eakman, a sophomore who is already getting Division I looks because of her impressive velocity.

The Gremlins put the ball in play against Eakman, scoring two earned runs.

As losses go, this was an impressive and encouraging one for Karns City, both offensively and defensively.

“She’s throwing 65 mph,” Stitt said of Eakman. That’s the equivalent of a mid-90s fastball in baseball. “She struck out 15 on us, but we were able to put the ball in play, get on and score a couple of runs. We want that competition.”

It certainly gave Reed a shot of confidence going into the rest of the season.

“We are powerful,” Reed said. “We have a lot of girls who can crank the ball. I’m very excited about this year because I think we have a lot more team chemistry and I think we can be very dangerous because there are a lot of girls that are very experienced. I think this year will be good.”