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True Bulldog in the ring: Kylie Kenney shines for Bryant


It’s hard to positively spin an 18-0 loss.

No. 13 Georgia, well into its season, throttled Bryant by that ungainly score in Athens as the Rhode Island school took the field for just the second time in 2022.

“When I said, ‘Are you ready to pitch against them?’ after they scored 18 runs off of us the day before,” recalled Bryant softball coach Nick French as he handed the ball to junior pitcher Kylie Kenney, “she said, ‘Yup. I am.’ It was the perfect indication of: She didn’t care who we were playing. I’m going to go out there and do what I do.”

Georgia finished eighth in the nation in home runs per game yet Kenney, Bryant’s ace, held UGA to just one long ball in five innings. The day before in Bryant’s opener Kenney, a star at CB South, held North Carolina in check for 5.1 innings in a 2-0 loss.

“I tell myself: no competition is too big. For a small school like us, it is a great opportunity to show who we are and what we can be against these big teams,” Kenney feels. “Personally, I love pitching against big teams. I think it’s a great learning experience and being able to compete against those high level teams is an experience itself.”

“We haven’t even stepped on dirt yet and she holds North Carolina, an ACC team, to a 2-0 game,” French echoed. “That was the first start of ‘Yeah, this is really going to work.’”

The talented Kenney battled through a lockdown-derailed 2020 freshman year and a 2021 where she was never 100% healthy. This spring, she showed the Northeast Conference (NEC) what she could do.

“I really think – through COVID and everything – that was a super hard time for all of the athletes,” Kenney reflected. “Honestly, just never losing the love for the game helped me to prepare for this year and to never take a moment for granted.

“Obviously, physically too, I worked a lot more on my pitching craft. I focused on some of the pitches I was weaker on the previous year,” she continued. “I maintained my strengths and that is how I came to be a stronger pitcher this season.”

Kenney earned second team All-NEC honors, going 8-7 with a 3.11 ERA and striking out 80 in 96.2 innings. On March 14, Kenney combined with Sarah McKeveny to no-hit Morehead State, a game where teammate and CB East alum Hailey Aspinwall singled and scored twice.

“She is a bulldog,” said Kevin Rosini at CB South with a tinge of irony since Bryant’s moniker is the Bulldogs. “Off the field, she is one of the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet. She is always polite. On the field, when you get her in the circle, she’s a different cat. She’ll cut your heart out and have no qualms about it.”

“You could see as a junior, she had a lot of growth, a lot of maturity and she knows how to get college hitters out now,” French noted. “As an upperclassman, she knows how to attack hitters.

“Nothing fazes her,” French continued. “You honestly don’t know if she is up 5-0 or down 5-0.”

“I trust my stuff. I know who I am on the mound,” Kenney stated. “If something goes wrong for me, I know my teammates will back me up. I also own who I am in the circle.”

As a junior, Kenney truly led CB South to the 2018 District One 6A championship. The Titans won four straight games – three of them were 1-0 shutouts as Kenney posted zeroes with brutal efficiency.

“She is, by far, the best pitcher that I have had in all of my years of coaching. That says a lot because I have seen a lot of pitching,” Rosini shared. “In our playoff run, our offense struggled a bit and she carried us to that championship. We had a really good team, but she threw three 1-0 shutouts in four district games, including the championship game. She took over when it needed to be done.”

“She had good velocity and a great command of the strike zone. She makes it really difficult for hitters,” recalled French during Kenney’s recruitment process. “We always projected her as a kid who is going to be a really great college pitcher. When I knew I was taking over here, she was my first phone call to let her know I still very much wanted her here.”

Bryant “is more personal. For softball, it was a smaller school so there wasn’t the immense pressure you had at bigger time schools,” Kenney shared. “I liked the small, close-knit fit of the Bryant team.”

Kenney amply repaid French’s confidence in her this spring. She threw an 11-strikeout, four-hit shutout to beat conference foe Long Island 9-0. One week later, Kenney held eventual conference champion St. Francis (Pa.) to two runs in six innings as Bryant handed the Red Flash their first NEC loss.

“She kept wanting the ball,” French recalled. “She is someone we relied on a lot this year to be a stopper.”

Kenney is an NEC Honor Roll student in the classroom. “Kylie was always a great student. She always conducted herself in such a professional way,” Rosini feels. “I have an 8-year-old daughter. Softball may or may not be her thing but if she could be the kid that Kylie is growing up, I’ll be a very happy dad.”