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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Tallassee’s Chloe Baynes lays down a bunt against PCA.

The 2020 season certainly did not go as expected for Tallassee’s Chloe Baynes. She faced a season-ending injury to her throwing arm in the first game of the year and shortly after she returned to the dugout to cheer on her teammates, the season was cancelled due to a global pandemic. 

Although she didn’t play a full game as a sophomore, Baynes is still one of the most recognizable names for high school softball fans around the state and her potential has caught some national attention as well. MaxPreps released a list of 100 “Must-See” high school athletes in 2020-21 and Baynes made the list. 

“It means a lot to me,” Baynes said. “This is a national list and anybody can get on it so it’s crazy to me that they would pick me. It’s a big honor they would even consider me.”

Baynes was already on the radar for MaxPreps after she was named Freshman of the Year for the 2019 season. Despite not having anything to show for a shortened sophomore season, Baynes’ stat line with a .669 batting average, 82 stolen bases and 90 runs scored was enough to keep her on the list.

“Everybody knows she’s a great player and she’s working hard to get back,” Tallassee coach Pat Love said. “We’re excited about having her back. When that injury happened, I hated it for her but it’s exciting to see her work so hard to get back. She’s going to be stronger, faster and a year better so it will be exciting to see her play when we get back.”

Although she has not been cleared for full softball activities, Baynes is doing physical therapy so she can return as quickly as possible. She is still holding out hope there will be a season for her travel ball team, the EC Bullets, and she wants to be ready for it if it comes.

“Every day I try to do something with softball,” Baynes said. “My arm has healed together but I’m still weak. I do a little arm weight and I’m hitting almost every day. I just want to play so badly. I’m so anxious.”

Baynes also believes a travel ball season will help make up for any lost exposure from missing out on Tallassee’s 15 games after she got hurt. However, she did say the exposure from getting on a national list like MaxPreps will help calm some of her nerves around her recruitment right now.

“I don’t know how much she’s worried about it right now,” Love said. “She’s been working really hard at therapy to get her arm strengthened up. It’s going to hurt but there are a lot of schools watching her. I think she’ll be fine.”

Baynes said, “It’s putting my name out there so I know I am still getting seen.”

MaxPreps only had eight total softball players on its list and only two athletes from the state of Alabama. Baynes was joined on the list by Hayden softball star Lindsey Smith, two players from teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 5A rankings. 

Those two teams faced off in the Wetumpka Softball Tournament championship and they were favorites to meet each other again at Lagoon Park. Baynes said she doesn’t know if this is the start of a rivalry between the two teams and the two players but she does expect to see Smith somewhere down the road.

“Maybe it will,” Baynes said. “I feel like if we would have played them again, it could have been more intense. We know they can hit, and they know we can hit so maybe it will be.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.