Reese Gandee must be popular. As she strolls out on Lady Viking Field at 9 A.M. last Saturday for a photo shoot for this story, a carload of teenagers drove by and screamed “Go Reese! Yea!”
Gandee laughed it off and threw her arm in the air. While temporarily distracted, she quickly resumed her focus on the task at hand.
Gandee has made quite a mark on Ripley softball. She went 9-4 as a freshman pitcher in 2011 and landed a second team All-State selection.
She actually had a better season this year but notched Special Honorable Mention status. Generally, this is due to several upper classman pitchers having superb years in West Virginia. It’s rare for a freshman to get that type of attention.
“I try not to think about stuff like that. I just want our team to be successful and have fun,” said Gandee.
The junior to be had fun this season. The right-handed flame-thrower was 13-7 with an ERA of 2.15 while fanning 91 batters. Gandee was saddled with a couple of hard luck loses, most notably a 1-0 defeat to then No. 1 Saint Albans. She also notched a Second Team All Mountain State Athletic Conference selection in 2012.
The pitcher showed her moxie during a fierce pitching dual with Parkersburg South’s own senior All Stater Cece Bailey. The 2-1 extra inning sectional loss to the Patriots in which she surrendered only one earned run was a heartbreaker but also an experience that the team can build on.
“We (team) really are close. We are playing together right now and getting some freshman valuable playing time. The chemistry is good.”
The WVSSAC allows prep teams three weeks to scrimmage after school is out.
Coach Ken Swisher is wasting no time in getting his girls on the field. Many players will continue to play for the West Virginia Wicked summer squad through July.
The screw-baller has faced some tough competition of late that she feels is good for all of the girls.
“We have faced a lot of senior players and even college players (West Virginia Wicked). I think the good competition is always a good thing because you really have to focus and learn from it,” said Gandee.
Gandee’s road to the game came early in life. When a babysitter reported to Gandee’s father David that Reese was pounding balls all over the yard and that she loved the game, he jumped on Ebay and bought a bucket of balls and began working with the youngster.
During her second grade year she was asked to pitch and struck out 10 batters in her first game. She had never pitched before.
The bloodlines don’t lie when it comes to Gandee’s ability. Cousin Morgan Clendenin was a Viking slugger and was drafted as a free agent by the Baltimore Orioles in 2003. He made it to AAA Bowie in 2007, just shy of the big show.
Page 2 of 2 - “Morgan used to catch me for hours. We had a lot of fun,” said Gandee.
Casey Waskey gave Gandee her first pitching lessons. Charleston’s Freddy Doss eventually took over and she traveled to Charleston every Tuesday and Thursday and threw 300 pitches per lesson and learned some of the grips that are in her arsenal today.How did she handle being a leader as a sophomore?
“Makenzie Hesson (Senior All State selection 2012) took me under her wing and we became close friends. I watched her and learned how to handle certain situations. She really helped me a lot.”
The Lady Viking hurler has a serious arsenal of pitches to choose from. Currently she slings a fastball, change-up, two-seam fastball, drop ball, rise ball, curve ball, screw-ball and a change-up / drop / curve combo that has notched several strikeouts in summer ball.
Gandee travels to Beckley bi-weekly to work with fast-pitch guru Jerry Johnson.
When not slinging fastballs, Gandee gives pitching lessons to young softballers and is a member of the Future Farmers of America. She recently took a small animal veterinarian class and learned how to administer shots to animals.
Gandee also likes to ride her ATV and be outside. She spends time outdoors with her brother Ranse, 12.
Her goals are team goals. With section realignment the Lady Vikes will have a less brutal path to the State Tournament next season.
“I just want us to fight together as a team and play smart ball. Obviously, the states (tourney) is something we are striving for as a team.”
Reese Gandee has a plan and it includes the word TEAM.