Renner to play for New Zealand's national softball team

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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The summer before your freshman year in college is one of the more exciting times in a teenager’s life.

For Oak Ridge graduate Kelley Renner, this summer is even more exciting than most. Renner, 18, is in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, for the next two weeks playing on the New Zealand National Softball team. The team, known as the “White Sox,” is participating in the 2018 Canada Cup International Softball Championships.

Following that tournament, the team heads to Japan to play in the World Championships, which is a qualifying event for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Renner, whose dad is from New Zealand, holds dual citizenship in both the United States and New Zealand.

“This is really big,” Renner said. “I’ve always wanted to make my parents proud, and my dad, being from New Zealand, I know he is proud. Along with the American side of my heritage, I get to play for the other side of my citizenship and not a lot of people get to do that. It means the world for me to have the opportunity to play on this stage.”

Renner is one of two 18-year-olds on the New Zealand team. Despite her youth, she’s a veteran of the White Sox, having played with the team last December in six games against the University of Oregon softball team, as well as a few games in an under-19 boys’ tournament. Last summer, Renner also played on New Zealand’s under-19 Jr. National team in the Women’s Jr. World Championships held in Florida.

“I wasn’t intimidated in my first appearance, but I definitely had to find a balance between my nerves and knowing I was good enough to play on the team,” Renner said of her first national team experience. “It’s a huge difference, to say the least, to play for your country. It was an amazing feeling, and an incredible opportunity to have.”

Playing on a team predominately made up of women in their 20s, Renner more than held her own. She played right field and batted ninth in most of the games and felt she did well. At Oak Ridge, the speedy center fielder routinely made highlight reel catches, as well as tracking down balls that looked like they’d be base hits off the bat. She did the same in that tournament.

“I played very well defensively, and made some great catches in the field,” Renner said. “Hitting was OK. It was definitely tough and a great learning experience to face the top pitchers, but I improved and now I know what to expect.”

Once the tournaments end, Renner will prepare for her collegiate softball career at UC San Diego.

“I’m very excited to play in college,” Renner said.