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Southeast's Ewoldt grew up wanting to hit the long ball, and a record-setting career has followed
STATE SOFTBALL

Southeast's Ewoldt grew up wanting to hit the long ball, and a record-setting career has followed

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Lincoln Southeast vs. Lincoln Pius X, 10.7

Lincoln Southeast's Rylan Ewoldt bats against Lincoln Pius X on Wednesday during a Class A district game at Doris Bair Complex. Ewoldt is tied for the all-class career home run record with another still-active player.

Rylan Ewoldt was at a hitting lesson around her seventh-grade year when a coached asked her a question that would significantly shape her softball career.

Did she want to be a get-on-base hitter? Or let it rip?

"I was like, 'I want to be a home run hitter,'" Ewoldt said. "And then from there on out we worked on power hitting and everything just kind of happened."

The Lincoln Southeast senior has left her mark on a lot of softballs — 62 at the high school level, to be exact.

Those 62 blasts make for a Class A career record. Ewoldt is tied for the all-class record with another current player who is launching shots quite frequently. Auburn senior Kylie Allen hit her 62nd career long ball early last week, and both players will be taking swings at the state tournament, which begins Wednesday in Hastings.

"Everyone keeps telling me, 'Oh, my gosh, that's so cool,' but it just really hasn't hit me yet, but I think it will once I'm done with high school softball," said Ewoldt, who will play softball at Boise State next year.

Ewoldt entered her final season sitting at 52 homers, nine behind Beatrice's Addison Barnard, who reached 61 career homers during her senior season last year. Home run No. 60, a mercy-rule walk-off shot against Fremont on Sept. 17, had Ewoldt passing Lincoln Southwest's Emma Kauf for the Class A record.

"Yeah, it's really hard, but it's just like whatever happens, happens," Ewoldt said on the challenge of not thinking about the record while at the plate. "I just kind of think base hit, base hit. I don't really think that much when I'm hitting because then I get too much in my head, so I kind of see ball, hit ball, and I just let everything I've worked for kind of happen."

Southeast first-year coach Toni Closner said Ewoldt has handled the record chase very well.

"I don't think it's really put any amount of extra pressure on her," Closner said. "I think her biggest goal was the same as the team's goal and that was to make state tournament for the first time in their careers. I think she was more focused on that and driven by that, and if she happened to hit a home run en route to making state, that was a plus." 

Ewoldt began working on her power hitting in the seventh grade, and it obviously carried into high school. But it goes beyond swinging the bat hard.

Closner said Ewoldt has a really good eye and she's able to make quick adjustments.

"You always can tell when she's about to hit a home run because she starts fouling off a lot of pitches," Closner said. "You can just tell when she's going to hit one because she's making good contact and she's on the pitcher, and she's also very self-driven and she works really hard on her own."

That includes expanding her all-around game.

Ewoldt, who plays shortstop, said she got a little faster in the offseason and that has led to bunting for base hits.

Wait, what? A power hitter bunting?

"Say I'm in a slump, I'll just bunt and that will usually get me back to hitting good," said Ewoldt, who is hitting .315 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs this season.

Southeast soared to state behind one of the state's top lineups. The Knights have speed atop the lineup with Karis Gifford, and are loaded on power in the middle with Ewoldt, Maggie Helms, Alivya Bollen and Alexis Hubbard.

That allows Closner to mix and match the lineup depending on the opponent and pitcher. Ewoldt, for example, has batted anywhere between second and sixth in the order.

Southeast (30-13), which will play North Platte on Wednesday, has hit 56 home runs this year, and it will be making its first trip to state since 2013.

The Knights can shake up a game quickly with the long ball, and now they aim to go long in Hastings.

"We made it so now it's let's go win it, let's go see how many games we can go get," Ewoldt said.

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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