Graceland softball coach Todd Verwers knew Rilee Slycord was a good softball player. But he saw something special in the former Newton and Colfax-Mingo standout during a scrimmage at Northwest Missouri State in late January.
Slycord had a modest fall ball season but swung the bat well at that scrimmage and carried her strong play into the 2020 season.
Verwers and his coaching staff recently announced Slycord earned Offensive Player of the Year in her first season in Lamoni after leading the Yellowjackets with a .442 batting average.
“Rilee is a very good fit for us, and she’s a really play softball player,” Verwers said. “I told her this, but I think she’s a legitimate low-end D-1 talent.”
Slycord not only earned Offensive Player of the Year at Graceland but she also was the Freshman of the Year, becoming the second Tigerhawk in two seasons to earn that honor. Former C-M standout Ries Wilson won that honor last season.
“She was up and down a little bit in the fall, but we could see then that she was going to be good,” Verwers said. “That scrimmage against Northwest Missouri State, she was phenomenal. We knew we might have something special at that point.”
Slycord burst onto the scene at Graceland. She went 4-for-5 with five runs and three RBIs in her first-ever collegiate game against Southwestern Community College.
She had at least two hits in each of her first five games. She hit two home runs in 12 games and they both were solo shots against Sterling College.
“I was nervous in the fall and was still getting used to college,” Slycord said. “I got more comfortable after that and my coaches and teammates believed in me, which helped me with my confidence, too.”
Slycord led the Yellowjackets in batting average (.442), slugging percentage (.674), on-base percentage (.467), hits (19), runs (12), doubles (2), home runs (2) and total bases (29). She was second in RBIs with 10.
Slycord’s 29 total bases were 12 more than any other Graceland player.
“We didn’t expect her to be as good as she was as fast as she was,” Verwers said. “But she thrives on good pitching. She likes facing pitchers who she knows are good. She was in the running for our team MVP, too. And her defense was fantastic this year. She doesn’t get enough credit for that part of her game.”
Slycord only got 12 games in her first season because of COVID-19. But spring sport athletes were granted another year of eligibility and she plans to play four more seasons in Lamoni.
“It was hard to hear that our season was ending before it was actually over,” Slycord said. “I was looking forward to it and our team was looking forward to it. Our chemistry was pretty good and we were playing well.”
Verwers said he loves players from Colfax-Mingo. He spent 10 years in the district and worked with C-M head softball coach Bryan Poulter, too. Slycord and Wilson have been great additions to his squad and he will look for more in future years.
“We like that program a lot,” Verwers said. “I know Coach Poulter. He does a great job with his kids.”
Slycord said she leaned on Wilson a few times during her freshman year.
“She helped me a lot,” Slycord said. “She introduced me to people and she is there for me when I need advice.”
Slycord is currently back home in Newton, and she’ll take online courses for the rest of the spring semester. She is unsure when things will go back to normal and she can return to campus to continue slugging softballs.
“I am just hanging out at home finishing my first year of school here,” Slycord said. “I am able to do some things softball related at home. My brothers are here to help if I need them, too.”