High School Sports

Merced’s Rheanne Lewis grateful to be playing softball again

slynch@mercedsunstar.com

Rheanne Lewis dived head first into second base to beat out a double in the fifth inning against Buhach Colony on Wednesday afternoon, and Merced High School softball coach Bart McAfee immediately called timeout to go check on his senior.

“What are you doing?” McAfee said.

Five months removed from knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, Lewis is supposed to limit her risks on the diamond. However, that’s tough for a four-year starter who has grown up playing the game going all-out all the time.

Lewis has a hard time letting up and it showed, as a few pitches later she raced to third on a wild pitch. She smacked a three-run home run in the sixth inning to help propel the Bears (7-2, 4-0 Central California Conference) to an 11-0 win over Buhach Colony (6-3, 3-1) in a battle of teams who went into Wednesday’s game tied for first place.

It was unclear whether Lewis would play her senior year after she tore her ACL late in the volleyball season. She had surgery Oct. 15 and didn’t test it on the softball field until the day before the first nonleague game.

“Honestly, when I hurt my knee, I didn’t think I’d be able to play,” Lewis said. “I’m thankful that I have a lot of supportive coaches and people in my life who told me my softball career wasn’t over.”

McAfee was confident he’d have his senior back at second base.

“It’s awesome to have her out here,” McAfee said. “She’s been our leadoff hitter the last three years, and we need her for her fourth season. She plays a big part on our team. We’re going to play it by ear. If we have a big lead, we’ll take her out of the game late.

“I was confident she would play just knowing her. I think being patient played a big part for her being out here because she’s not a patient person. She has to watch it when she’s running or sliding. We have to tell her to take it easy sometimes. That’s why I ran out there to ask her, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ 

Lewis has had to adapt her game after the injury. In the past, she relied more on speed as a slap hitter. She still hasn’t regained her full speed, and she struggles sometimes when she has to stop suddenly or change directions.

“I can’t be as aggressive as I was,” she said. “I probably have about 85 percent trust in my knee. There are still some trust issues there because it did blow out on me before.”

With Lewis back in the lineup, Merced has its eyes on winning a sixth consecutive CCC championship.

Madilyn Nickles continues to dominate. The Bears ace struck out 14 before the game was called after six innings because of the 10-run rule. Nickles has struck out 54 hitters in her past 26 innings without allowing an earned run.

Merced pounded 10 hits against Buhach Colony with Liliana Ramirez and Alazaya Landeros each collecting two. Ramirez also homered during Merced’s five-run sixth inning.

Julia Pinasco picked up both of the Thunder’s hits.

“This was a pretty big game because we have a title to defend,” said Lewis, who drove in four runs. “I’ve been on this team that has won titles the last three years. That’s close to my heart. I want to be on another team that wins a title.”

Shawn Jansen: 209-385-2462, @MSSsports

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