By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Mills named Region 2-AAAAAA softball MVP
Rylee Mills
Rebels pitcher Rylee Mills posted a 1.32 ERA in 2021. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — Funny how things change. A couple of years ago, Effingham County’s Rylee Mills was a wide-eyed freshman, happy to be a contributor on the Rebels softball team.

A couple years later, she’s the leader.

And Mills did her job well — batting .340 as the leadoff hitter and, more importantly, spinning a 1.32 earned run average while providing the pitching edge to take ECHS back to the top of Region 2-AAAAAA.

Region coaches noticed and named Mills the region’s Most Valuable Player.

South Effingham’s Bailey Kendziorski earned the region’s Pitcher of the Year honor and Chloe Turner was the region’ Offensive Player of the Year.

Mills blended both skills — pitching and hitting — to make a difference for the Rebels, who finished third during the regular season before turning things around and winning the region tournament.

“I have high expectations for myself on the mound and at the plate,” Mills said. “I knew I had to step up.”

In three memorable softball games, the likeable junior, known as “Smiley Rylee” to her teammates, came up with memorable performances.

She limited South Effingham to two hits while winning a 2-1, eight-inning thriller to give the Mustangs their lone regular-season region loss Sept. 14.

“That game gave us a lot of confidence. We started with energy and ended with energy,” said Mills about a victory that avenged SEHS’ 9-1 mercy-rule beatdown in the team’s first meeting.

Because of COVID-19 protocol, Mills didn’t play in the first game against South and downplayed the significance of edging Kendziorski in their only head-to-head pitching showdown of the season.

“When I was younger, I played on the same teams with Bailey, so I wouldn’t say we have a rivalry. It’s really a South rivalry,” Mills said.

Three weeks later, in the region tournament, Mills pitched in and out of jams — stranding eight Glynn Academy runners in scoring position — during a 5-1 extra-inning victory that avenged two Red Terror regular-season wins.

Coleman, Morgan Coleman and Shelby Aiken made the second team.

For SEHS, Whitney Thompson, Mattie Turner and Avery Roddenberry earned first-team all-region honors, and Haylee Johnson, Kenzie Ergle and Kaley Stone made the second team.