University of Nevada honors Kelly Orlich
In some respects, Kelly Orlich’s career resembles that of a mountaineer more than a softball player – reaching new peaks, each higher than the last.
“It’s amazing, because I’ve had so many wonderful things happen,” said Orlich, as South Lake Tahoe resident and one of two University of Nevada players the school will induct into the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame this year. “I thought my junior year, when I was chosen as an All-American, ‘This is the best.'”
Instead of leveling off, though, Orlich – then Kelly Dick – continued to build her career and her life to new heights. In her junior, All-America year, she hit .351 while leading her team in extra-base hits and stolen bases as the Wolf Pack finished 27-9 and earned its first berth in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Division II national championship tournament. By the time she graduated from Nevada in 1984, she already had established herself as one of the finest athletes to wear the school’s colors.
But the peaks kept coming. After college, Orlich went on to coach at the high-school level, turning McQueen High in Reno into a softball power, and continued her coaching career at South Tahoe High. They came off the field too, as she married South Tahoe basketball coaching legend Tom Orlich, and had four children: Ashley, 9, Brianna, 7, Alexandria, 5, and Michael, 3.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have these things happen,” she said.
The latest apex, induction with the Class of 1999 into Nevada’s Wolf Pack Hall of Fame. She joins quarterback Eric Beavers, who led the Wolf Pack to an undefeated season in 1986. The news of Orlich’s induction – particularly that she is one of only two class members – came as a surprise to her.
“Needless to say, I was a little shocked and obviously humbled by it,” she said. “I was not expecting it one bit.”
But judging from her record and reputation at Nevada, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. While at Nevada, Orlich set eight career or single-season records for the school’s softball squad.
“Kelly really was before her time,” said Nevada athletic director Chris Ault. “In those days, women’s sports at this institution were very minimal, but Kelly was outstanding, on the field as well as off. Everybody knew who she was – a great softball player.
“In my opinion, she’s probably one of the first women in this university’s modern history to truly exemplify the greatness of what women’s sports can bring to your program.”
Orlich’s induction is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24 at the Atlantis Casino. The school also will honor her and Beavers during halftime of the Wolf Pack’s homecoming game the following day. Orlich sees the ceremony as a chance to pass the honor along to those who helped her career grow – from Mike and Joe Duhart, who found room for the 14-year-old Sparks High sophomore on their traveling team of college-aged players, to the administrators at McQueen who gave her the chance to turn the Lancers into winners, to her family.
“The more I get to thinking about it, as a player, you never really get a chance to thank everybody who has been a part of … getting you there,” she said. “I had so many people around me to get me there.
“It’s because of them, and I’m going to share in this.”
Orlich played coed recreational softball and has coached her daughters in Little League. She hasn’t ruled out, though, returning to a coaching position. She said right now she’s enjoying every second of being a parent.
“I love being a mom, and my kids are just now getting into the soccer and the baseball,” she said. “(You) really miss coaching. I really miss the kids I coached, but I’m really enjoying my own now, so there’s no void there.”
But she said she never would rule out returning to coaching. Maybe that will be the next peak to come to Orlich, the next height to scale.
“I’m just overwhelmed by this, and I’m just extremely thankful to be able to share it with all the people who have been such a big part of what I am, where I’ve been, and where I hope to go down the road.”
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