By: Seth McKinzie
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Cally Kildow stormed onto the scene as a ninth grader. She set records. She struck out tons of batters. Her batting average was phenomenal. She got an offer from Arkansas and committed. The Lady Lions went all the way to the 4A state semifinals.
Then, in 2018, Kildow had to watch from the dugout after a severe leg injury suffered during basketball season kept her from competing. The process was tough, no doubt, but the now-junior watched and supported her teammates as they rose above the negative vibes from the “outside crowd” who believed Gravette would fade away without their Southeastern Conference caliber player.
“The past year has been a roller coaster of ups and downs,” said Kildow. “My whole life has always revolved around a sport, so when it was taken away from me it definitely took a toll on my mental and emotional state.”
Kildow knows the lengthy healing process has helped to strengthen her resolve.
“The recovery has made me extremely patient,” said Kildow. “God has a plan for all of us. I truly believe this has been a blessing in disguise and I will come back as a better softball player, teammate, and person. I can’t thank my parents, coaches, and friends enough for helping me climb back.”
To get the motivation to find herself back out on the field, Kildow only has to look at the missed opportunity of 2018.
“”Having to sit out has been the biggest motivation,” said Kildow. “Just wanting to get back out there and play.”
Bailey Elmore stepped into the role of primary pitcher in Kildow’s absence last season and Elmore’s classmate was not surprised at the level of success she achieved.
“She definitely stepped up and filled the role,” said Kildow. “I know it surprised some people but certainly not me. “She is an extremely hard worker and a great leader. Bailey and I are splitting time pitching, playing third base, and we plan on leading our team to a ring.”
The junior believes that she was still able to grow as a player in 2018 despite missing the season.
“Sitting out for a whole season taught me how everyone has a role whether you are in the lineup or not,” said Kildow. “With that being said, I was taught growing up to always be a competitor. It was also very frustrating not being able to play due to an injury and it taught me to be patient.”
With tons of team expectations heading into the 2019 season, Kildow knows the togetherness of the Lady Lions will be the driving force behind any successes.
“We are very comfortable with each other,” said Kildow. “It helps immensely because we can challenge each other about anything. We are all open and honest with ourselves and it ultimately makes us a better team.”
That cohesiveness will hopefully lead the Lady Lions to a state title opportunity.
“My freshman year it took us a while to sync up as a team,” said Kildow. “There were also a lot of distractions down the stretch that will not be repeated. We have to control what we can control. Last year we made an awesome run and I wish I could have been there to help us get the job done. It is going to be tougher this year with adding some of the bigger schools to the 4A but if our bats stay hot and we play tough and gritty on defense like we are capable of we have a great shot at finishing the job.”
Speaking to the tougher competition this season Kildow still believes in a simple approach.
“My favorite line is to take everything one pitch at a time,” said Kildow. “Our mindset will be to do everything to win every pitch and when we don’t we have to stay positive and look forward to the next pitch.”
When asked who has shown marked improvement and could step up to surprise fans around the conference Kildow stuck with the cohesive theme and gave Lady Lions fans a glimpse at the talent on the team.
“I think everybody is ready to break out and capable of having their best seasons yet,” said Kildow. “Not many people in the state understand what we have accomplished the last two years without a lot of upperclassmen. Our experience positions us very well for this year.”
Kildow and the Lady Lions play today (Friday, March 1) at home vs. Rogers. Game is set to begin at 5:00.