Kiley Wong-Li had made a name for herself on the softball field long before she arrived at Shepherd Hill four years ago.
Although young for her age group, she typically was moved up to play with older kids due to her propensity for belting a ball with a bat, causing infielders to duck and outfielders to remain motionless as the sphere soared overhead.
It all got folks in her hometown of Charlton to wondering.
“Even when she was little, people would say, ‘What’s this kid going to be like when she’s older,’ ” John Snyder, Wong-Li’s former youth league and current high school coach, recently recalled with a knowing laugh.
Well, pretty darn good. That’s what.
Wong-Li, who played on a pair of state championship teams for Charlton Little League Softball, was a varsity starter for Shepherd Hill from Day 1.
In her first three seasons she helped the Rams go 43-25 (.632) and thrice qualify for the Central Mass. Division 1 Tournament while batting .419, hitting 18 home runs and driving in 96 runs. Thirty-seven of her 90 hits went for extra bases and in a testament to her plate discipline, she struck out just 14 times in 215 at-bats.
“Extreme power,” Snyder said. “She was your typical home run hitter, but she could do other things, too. She could play any position, pitch — she did multiple things for us. Anything I asked of her she would do.
Here are a few lighthearted thoughts from Wong-Li while waiting for a return to the diamond:
Favorite food: Tacos
Favorite musician: I’ve been listening to a lot of Rihanna lately, so I’m going to have to say her.
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Favorite sports team: The Patriots. Being an athlete I don’t really watch a lot of sports except for football
Favorite subject: Math
Binge watching lately: I just watched “Outdoor Banks” because everybody was talking about that. It was surprisingly good.
Invite any three people to dinner: Rhianna, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans
Most memorable moment: Last year in the districts, we were in the semifinals and tied (against Grafton in the ninth inning) and I hit the game-winning home run. That was the best experience of my life.
Sports superstition: I always have to put my uniform on the same every time. I put my sliding shorts on, then my left sock and my right sock, and if I have to wear Under Armour there’s that. Then I put my shirt on and then my pants.
“She was going to our starting pitcher this year and she hadn’t pitched that much in probably five years. A big leader and a great kid who always gave 110 percent on the field and you can’t ask any more of that from a player.”
The Rams advanced to the CMass final last season for the first time since 2014, where they lost to eventual state champion Wachusett Regional. With the majority of starters returning, hopes were high for another deep run before this season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I really thought we were going to go far this year, so it stinks that we didn’t get the chance to because we were so close last year,” Wong-Li, 17, said. “Honestly, we’ve never made it that far before and it was really fun to almost win our district.”
So it’s been a spring with no sports and studying from home for this returning T&G Super Team selection and National Honor Society inductee. It’s all winding down now as Wong-Li has one assignment to complete, a worksheet in advanced placement calculus, before graduating May 31.
“It’s been pretty interesting, I’ll say that,” she said of the final three months of high school.
Still, the 5-foot-9 Wong-Li has done her best to remain engaged athletically in hopes her Polar Crush travel team will be able to salvage a summer season that has already seen tournaments rescheduled. She hits in a batting cage her dad built in the basement a few years ago, does a lot of body weight workouts and regularly jogs to nearby Buffamville Lake for some trail running.
“I’m very excited to get back on the field and play, especially before college,” Wong-Li said. “I just want to be able to play before college starts so I’m ready for fall ball.”
Wong-Li was also a three-year varsity player in volleyball, twice earning Mid-Wach A all-star accolades, and a member of the math club. She enjoys spending time with her friends and traveling, having had her passport stamped in Australia, Chile, Mexico, and multiple countries in Europe.
Her next trip will be to Siena College, a small Division 1 school located just north of Albany, New York. Wong-Li, who plans to major in psychology and minor in criminal justice, signed her national letter of intent to play softball for the Saints in mid-November.
Sienna recently held a Zoom meeting for all incoming freshman athletes to keep them in the loop. It appears the campus will be open this fall, and that suits Wong-Li just fine.
“They had no doubt that we were going back,” she said. “They didn’t seem worried, which was nice. So hopefully we’ll be back. I loved high school, but I think I’m ready to move on.”