The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

May 2, 2012

Lekkis come full circle

By Brandon Schlager
Niagara Gazette

BUFFALO — In the spring of 2009, two happy-go-lucky Niagara-Wheatfield graduates apprehensively approached Bengal Field at Buffalo State College.

Eager to begin new chapters in their softball careers, twins Kaylee and Kyrstin Lekki took the field together, side by side, just as they had throughout their entire lives.

This weekend, those careers of the Lekki twins will come full circle, as the longtime teammates and lifelong sisters prepare to conclude their time in orange and black, together — the same way it all began.

“It definitely has not hit me yet,” Kaylee said, reflecting on her four years as a Bengal.

The Lekkis grew up in North Tonawanda, each a standout for the Falcons during high school, before heading to Buffalo State.

Over the years, Kyrstin and Kaylee have each settled into crucial roles for the Bengals. While both girls have enjoyed success, they’ve each taken different paths to do so.

Kyrstin has been an offensive force for the team. Her 31 career home runs are second to only Deanna Hunt on the Bengals’ all-time list. This season, she leads the team with a .461 batting average, eight home runs and a career-high 39 RBIs. Her 20 doubles this season set a new single-season school record.

“Kyrstin as a softball player, she’s one of a kind,” coach Marie Curran said. “You don’t get those gifts and that level of focus around very often. I’m really glad for her that she’s going to go out on a great note her senior year and she’s going to show everybody who Kyrstin Lekki is.”

While Kaylee’s on-field accomplishments fall short of her sister’s, her role as team leader and pace setter has made an equal, if not greater, impact to Kyrstin’s bat.

Kaylee’s bubbly personality and positive attitude are what the Bengals turn toward to lift their spirits when they’re down. When longtime coach Sandy Hollander passed away in April, Kaylee was at her best, serving as the glue that kept the Bengals together and their chins held high.

“Being a role player her whole career, Kaylee’s really stepped up and showed the team that you have to do what matters the most for the group of people you are with,” Curran said. “You take that role, you embrace it and you move forward. Kaylee took it and ran with it. She took our team to the next level.”

Kaylee’s versatility combined with Kyrstin’s talent have allowed the Bengals to endure much success with the duo in the lineup. In their four seasons with the team, Buffalo State has gone a combined 91-73, missing the SUNYAC playoffs just once. In their freshman year, the Lekkis helped the the Bengals to the program’s fourth SUNYAC title and a berth in the NCAA regional playoffs.

The success they’ve had throughout their careers is something Kaylee and Kyrstin say they could have never achieved without the other by their side.

“People say, ‘Oh, you guys are always together.’ Well, we work together, we go to school together, we play softball together, we share a car. We have no choice!” Kaylee joked. “I don’t know what I would do if she wasn’t here.”

“Honestly, it’s just like we don’t know any different,” Kyrstin added. “We don’t know what it’s like for the other one not to be there. Everyone always asks us ‘Do you like to be a twin?’ I don’t know what it’s like not to be, so I can’t answer that question for you.”

For anyone who has witnessed the Lekki twins play, they immediately take notice of their energetic approach to the game of softball. That, Curran said, is what has made all the difference for the Bengals.

“Their energy, the passion for the game they bring and their love for Buffalo State College is why they make such great leaders,” she said. “Their love of softball is second to none.”

Last year, the Bengals fell just shy of winning their fifth SUNYAC championship. After stumbling into the postseason with an 18-21 record, the fifth-seeded underdogs came close to upsetting a top-seeded Cortland team.

This year, the Lekkis and the fourth-seeded Bengals head to Cortland again tonight, as they open their double-elimination playoff tournament against No. 3 Geneseo. Both Kyrstin and Kaylee each agreed the best way to conclude their careers will be to win another SUNYAC championship. Looking back on the past four years, though, they’re already satisfied with a long career. The only knock, they said, was that it simply wasn’t long enough.

“It went by too fast,” Kaylee said.

“Yeah, I was going to say that, too!” Kyrstin said, interrupting her sister. “These are memories you’re never going to get back. I loved the school, I loved everything. Going together was a great choice.”

But Curran said having two players like Kyrstin and Kaylee at Buffalo State, together, is something that makes the program very lucky.

“They’re two kids you can’t replace,” she said. “With Kaylee’s personality and perseverance and Kyrstin, softball-ability wise, leadership wise and what she’s brought to the program these past four years, the two of them will be sorely missed.

“They’ll always be the Lekki twins.”