By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – Helen Reynolds laughs at the notion she might have torn allegiances when Effingham County and South Effingham meet in a key softball showdown this week.
Reynolds played slow-pitch softball for the Rebels. She coached ECHS' first fastpitch softball team and now can be seen front and center in the stands rooting for her daughter Emma who plays third base on the 2023 team.
Reynolds also coaches the under-18 Angels travel softball team, which includes Mustang rival Whitney Thompson.
"I'm a mom and deep down a Rebel at heart. I want us to win. But I always pull for Whitney when she's at bat," said Helen about the ECHS-SEHS three-game series which began Sept. 26 in Springfield. Game 2 moves to Guyton today (Sept. 27) before returning back to Springfield for the finale on Thursday (Sept. 28).
ECHS leads Region 2-6A with an 11-1 record (17-3 overall). South sports a 10-1 region record (19-3 overall).
According to Score Atlanta's most recent top 10 softball rankings (on Sept. 12), the Mustangs are ranked fifth in Class 6A. The Rebels are seventh.
Reynolds worked as a speech therapist in the Effingham County school district for 26 years before transitioning to a compliance specialist.
But June and July weekends are reserved for softball. Along with her husband Daniel, Helen has stayed close to the local softball scene. They began coaching recreation ball, first with their 9-year-old daughter Addie, now a junior playing at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.
With the Angels, the Reynolds coach Emma and another current ECHS player Sarah Grace Hinely. And Thompson.
"My dad always coached me. It's part of what we did," Helen said about growing up with softball. "I love it. I tell the girls all the time, you're the best part of my weekend.
"I look forward to my time with them. I love the smell of clay. I love being out in the field. I love every part of it. The fact that I get to do it with some great kids and great families, there's nothing better."
Reynolds said the Angels played in softball showcases around the state during the summer. She said the organization's goal is player development with an eye on getting players recruited by colleges.
Emma recently verbally committed to USCB.
"We've had a pretty good success rate for getting kids to the next level," Reynolds said. "That's our goal. When they're ready to live out their dreams, they have all the skill sets to do that."
That talent will be in the spotlight this week when the Rebels and Mustangs tangle. Last season, Thompson's three-run home run was the decisive blow in SEHS' 3-0 Game 1 victory.
"After the game I gave (Thompson's parents) Melissa and Andrew a hug, I was excited for Whitney," Reynolds said. "Sad for us, but excited for Whitney."
South won two of the three games in the series – ECHS won the second game 1-0 in 10 innings and the Mustangs won the third game 1-0 – to claim a region championship and host a four-team regional to begin the state tournament.
Both SEHS and ECHS advanced from their regionals to play in Columbus, the site of the Elite Eight double-elimination tournament to determine a state champion.
"There's so much softball talent in the county. People underestimate it," Reynolds said. "We're just this tucked-away gem."