Reagan Dykes manages strong pitching staff, succeeds on field


CW / Joe Will Field

James Benedetto, Sports Writer

It’s the top of the fifth between Alabama and South Alabama. The Crimson Tide just gave up a solo home run to tie the game at two, on a night where Alabama could not muster a ton of offense. In other words, a South Alabama home run was the last thing Alabama needed.

The team held a slim one-run lead through four innings, and when the ball left Rhoads Stadium, fans were stunned to silence. As the hitter touched home plate and began to celebrate with her teammates, catcher Reagan Dykes was already at the circle with the starting pitcher Sarah Cornell and all of the infielders. After their meeting, Cornell hit the proverbial reset button and got three outs in succession, ending the inning.

Alabama rallied to regain the lead in the bottom of the fifth and won 5-2. Dykes’ meeting got the team back on the same page, and although a perfectly timed trip to the circle does not show up on the stat sheet, if Dykes did not call that meeting, the result of the game may have been different.

“[Coach Patrick Murphy] encourages us to really grow relationships with the pitchers in the fall,” Dykes said. “It’s all about body language and different gestures that they give. Also, if we call one pitch to one side of the plate and it’s thrown to the other, that’s when we know that something is not quite right whether they need a break or if it is mental. I sometimes feel like they don’t realize that they do that every day. They pitch and hit that spot every day, so I just go out there and tell them, ‘Hey, deep breath. It is just me and you, and we got this girl.’”

That same message was delivered to Cornell after the home run, and it worked to perfection as Cornell only gave up a single for the rest of her start.

“One of things [the catchers] are challenged to do is to take each pitcher out to lunch or dinner by themselves, and it needs to happen more than once a semester,” Murphy said. “[Reagan] takes her out to eat, and she says, ‘If you get into trouble, how do you want me to talk to you? Do you want me to kick you in the butt, do you want me to pat you on the back or do you want me to tell you a joke?’ There are five pitchers, so they are five different reactions, so it is all over the spectrum.”

Dykes has to manage five different personalities, so each pitcher responds to each situation in a different way. Cornell said that she needs to be calmed down, like when she gave up the home run. So where did Dykes take the new pitchers to learn about their tendencies?

“I think I took two of them to Buffalo Phil’s so we can use Bama Cash,” Dykes said. “Me and Courtney are really good friends, so we probably just hung out at someone’s house.”

Dykes has been dominant as a catcher and is second all-time in most caught stealing. The catcher has also showed her strength at the plate this year. Dykes is fourth on the team in batting average and RBIs. Her four home runs rank her fifth on the team.

“Defensively she has been terrific,” Murphy said. “She is going to break that record of people thrown out. Nobody runs against her. Offensively she’s been a lot more consistent this year. It started in the fall. She’s been barreling up almost everything, and the thing that has improved was that she is not carrying bad stuff with her.”

Murphy also said that the new mindset has allowed Dykes to become a better leader and in turn a better catcher.

“I think she is a lot more selfless,” Murphy said. “We always say, ‘Put yourself into others and get out of yourself.’ She’s been doing that since day one. She has really poured herself into the team.”

Dykes and her teammates travel to Texas A&M this weekend to face the Aggies in a three-game series. Game one is scheduled for Friday, March 22 at 6 p.m.