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Kaylin Worley bounces back for Grant

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Kaylin Worley bounces back for Grant

Grant outfielder Kaylin Worley’s high school career started with a bang.

During her freshman season, Worley was a dynamo from the leadoff spot. She led the Bulldogs in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles, triples and runs scored, and she was second in hits and RBIs behind Shelby Wasilewski.

“After my freshman year, I felt on top of the world,” Worley said. “I felt like I could do anything and everything. … Just missing all-state pushed me to want to work harder and achieve more in the next three years. I had huge goals.”

Her mother, Stevi Sweeney, recalls Worley was happy.

“Her freshman year was amazing,” Sweeney said. “She came to life and did what she’s done for so many years. It was a dream come true.”

But in March 2023, Worley suffered hip and groin injuries, which led to a frustrating sophomore season. Her dreams of earning all-state honors and leading the Bulldogs to a Northern Lake County Conference title were put on hold. More problems arose when she suffered a torn labrum on a slide during a travel game in October.

“I turned the wrong way, tweaked my hip and groin, and it has not been the same since,” Worley said. “I went through physical therapy, but the pain was always there. I pushed through it, but I could still feel it.”

Worley, who is still trying to get back to 100%, is starting to show what she can do again early in her junior season and said Grant’s trip to Tennessee last week reinvigorated her. She is hitting .432 with two home runs, two doubles, six RBIs, eight runs scored and four stolen bases for the Bulldogs (2-5).

“This year I feel as ready as I can be,” Worley said. “I feel like what I showed in Tennessee gets me really excited for the season. The first game I felt like maybe I’m back. I was playing center field and felt confident. It was really nice to help my team succeed and win a game.”

Grant coach Chris Van Alstine said Worley is beginning to look like an all-state player again.

“I was convinced she was going to be an all-state player in her freshman year,” Van Alstine said. “She had time on her side. She just started battling injuries a lot after that. She was limited a lot.

“But I think she can still be an all-stater. Hopefully this year, but definitely maybe next year. I don’t see why not with the way she’s hitting and playing this year.”

Worley hopes that continues. She said it was difficult to go from starting 32 of 33 games during her freshman season to playing a part-time role last year. She praised Van Alstine for supporting her.

“Coach told me to focus on getting healthy and slowly work my way into the lineup and help when I can,” she said. “I started some games. I would sub in a lot. It was hard mentally and physically. I really wanted to get out there and play. I still supported my team.”

Sweeney said Worley’s injuries led to some long nights at home.

“There were quite a few nights sitting on the couch while she cried,” Sweeney said. “We didn’t know the prognosis and how it would affect her being at such a young age. Kaylin is a super optimistic kid, but I questioned whether this would be it. She persevered. There were external family factors for her as well in her sophomore year.”

Sweeney said Worley eventually started to depend on others for help.

“She had an amazing support group, and she learned it was OK to ask for help and to rely on other people if you need it,” Sweeney said. “Kaylin is always the one to help others. It humbled her.”

Worley, who has also played volleyball and basketball at Grant, is ready to support her teammates in new ways.

“I’m super excited knowing I’m a big aspect of this team,” she said. “We’re a very young team. I’m excited to teach the girls on the team, whether it be in the infield, outfield or hitting, and also be a mentor for them. I want them to know they can rely on me.”

Bobby Narang is a freelance reporter.



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