Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — With two years still left in a Wheelersburg uniform, Rylie Hughes has one of the biggest decisions she’ll ever make out of the way.
On Dec. 10, 2019, after an incredibly successful sophomore season in the spring, Hughes committed to continue her softball career at the University of Charleston.
“I am blessed to announce that I have decided to further my academic and athletic careers at the University of Charleston,” Hughes wrote, via Twitter. “I plan to enroll in the UC School of Pharmacy to become an Oncology Pharmacist. I can’t thank everyone enough who has helped me along the way. Go Eagles.”
Hughes discussed her decision with Southern Ohio Sports Authority, and noted an offer she couldn’t refuse, the opportunity to play immediately, and close proximity to home as the determining factors.
“I always thought I wanted to go to a big school. But after visiting UC, I really loved the small campus, [Charleston] coach [Kimberly] Stiles, and how I will be close to home. Coach Stiles made me a really good offer and I also wanted to choose a school where I would play all four years,” Hughes said. “At some of the schools that I have been talking to, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play as a freshman or sophomore. UC also has a good pharmacy program and that is what I plan to do.”
Along the way, and throughout multiple visits, Hughes’ support system was right beside her.
“My family, teammates and coaches mean a lot to me and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” Hughes said. “They have all pushed me to be the best I can be. I look forward to continuing to play the game I love while getting a good education.”
Hughes assisted the Pirates to a 21-3 finish last season, one that ended sooner than the team had hoped, thanks to an 8-5 loss to Fairfield in a Division III district final.
The third baseman spent most of her time in the middle of Wheelersburg’s lineup. In the aforementioned district championship game, she was 3-for-3 with two home runs and four RBIs.
She’ll be joining an established collegiate program that finished 33-21 last season with a 21-11 mark in the Mountain East Conference.
“To be a college athlete, it means that all of my hard work has paid off and I get to play the game I love for four more years after high school,” Hughes said. “I am very thankful for that.”
Wheelersburg returns the bulk of its offensive production, centered around Hughes, this spring. The Pirates will be heavily favored to win the SOC II and have the talent to make a deep tournament run.
With the college decision off her mind, Hughes can now focus solely on helping her teammates meet high expectations during her junior year.
“Our goal is to make it to state. I feel that we have the talent to do it,” Hughes said. “Our season was cut shorter than we hoped last year. This year, we plan to make a statement.”
The Pirates begin their season on April 1 at Valley.