Local athlete relishes national team experience

Alexis Kilfoyl has had a busy summer, as a member of the 2017 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Training Team.

The Academy at the Lakes pitching sensation is one of just 24 athletes on the prestigious roster, which features some of the nation’s top players under 19 years old.

After a weeklong training camp in mid-June, Kilfoyl and her Team USA comrades participated in a round of friendlies and exhibition games against elite travel teams from California, Florida, Massachusetts and Washington.

Alexis Kilfoyl is one of just 24 athletes on the 2017 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Training Team. She made the team in January, following a two-day selection process in Clearwater. (Courtesy of USA Softball)

They also competed in the World Cup of Softball XII in Oklahoma City earlier this month, squaring off against some of the top international teams, including Australia, Canada and Japan, among others.

Kilfoyl, who mainly served in a relief role, pitched in six games, posting a 5.04 ERA over 8.1 innings.

The toughest team faced?

“Japan really stood out,” Kilfoyl said. “They have a lot of talent.”

Altogether, the Team USA experience has been enjoyable and unique.

At 16, the right-hander is easily the youngest, and one of just three Floridians on the roster.

She made the team in January, following a two-day selection process in Clearwater.

“It’s very different,” she said. “Just knowing all the girls from all around the country and how they play and meeting them, it was really fun. Knowing (some) of the girls are already in college, the competition is legit.

“I’ve learned like how really high up on the scale the talent is,” she added.

Building relationships and making new friends has proven worthwhile, too.

Kilfoyl previously was familiar with just two other players — University of Alabama’s Elissa Brown and Kaylee Tow.

“I love meeting new people,” Kilfoyl said. “Pretty much everyone was new. Some were friends of friends, but it was my first time meeting them.”

The U.S junior national team is currently in Clearwater, competing in the 26-team WBSC (World Baseball Softball Confederation) Junior Women’s World Championship.

The summer experience also has given Kilfoyl the opportunity to receive top-level coaching, from the likes of Oregon State head coach Laura Berg, Arizona State head coach Trisha Ford, and University of Texas-Arlington head coach Kristie Fox.

“They’ve given us little tips that’ve helped, some in pitching, but definitely more in fielding,” Kilfoyl said. “It’s been more about fixing up little things.”

She added: “I was working just on having everything ready, like having all of my pitches ready when I throw them in a game. Coming up this season for softball, I’m actually going to work on my weaker points, like my rise ball.”

The U.S. squad is currently in Clearwater through July 30, competing in the 26-team WBSC (World Baseball Softball Confederation) Junior Women’s World Championship, trying to defend its 2015 title.

Kilfoyl, however, will be traveling to California, as a member of the Georgia-based East Cobb Bullets Fastpitch travel team. (The U.S. junior team roster was recently pared down to 17 players, with Kilfoyl named one of seven alternates.)

She’ll rejoin the U.S. junior national team Aug. 9 and Aug. 10 in Cincinnati, Ohio, for an exhibition game at the MLB RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) World Series. The RBI program is Major League Baseball’s youth initiative designed to provide young people from underserved and diverse communities with opportunities to play baseball and softball.

One of Tampa Bay’s elite softball prospects, Kilfoyl has always stood out on the diamond.

She’s played varsity softball since the seventh grade, and committed to Alabama her freshman year.

At 6-foot-1, she stands nearly a foot taller than most of her high school teammates.

She has the game to match, with a 68-mph fastball and signature drop-ball pitch.

Kilfoyl won 16 games as a sophomore last season, posting a 0.85 ERA and striking out 201 batters in 115.3 innings — guiding Academy at the Lakes to the Class 2A regional final.

The campaign earned her a nod to the Miracle Sports Class 2A All-State First Team.

“I worked on hitting my spots more consistently,” Kilfoyl said of her sophomore season. “Freshman year, I was kind of chaotic. I would just throw the pitch for no reason, and was a little more careless. But, this year we were playing better teams, where you have to step up your game and start throwing stuff for a purpose.”

Meanwhile, her development —along with fellow AATL teammates—excites her for the 2018 season.

Besides Kilfoyl, the Wildcats are stacked with gifted, young hitters, including freshman Brooke Blankenship (.522 average, six home runs) and Kendra Falby (.537 average, six doubles), and sophomore Jessica Mott (.522 average, nine doubles).

“People are definitely working harder,” she said. “Like all of the girls are playing in really good travel teams this summer, and traveling the country playing in the best tournaments. So, next year everyone’s going to come out a better player, and I think we have a chance to move on to states next year.”

Alexis Kilfoyl’s Academy at the Lakes varsity stats
Pitching: 16 wins, 0.85 ERA, 201 strikeouts in 115.2 innings
Hitting: .517 average, with five home runs, eight doubles and 36 RBIs

Pitching: 11 wins, 1.36 ERA, 163 strikeouts in 103 innings
Hitting: .561 average, three home runs, six doubles, 20 RBIs

Eighth grade
Pitching: 12 wins, 0.72 ERA, 111 strikeouts in 87.1 innings
Hitting: .458 average, four home runs, eight doubles, 25 RBIs

Seventh grade
Pitching: 14 wins, 2.61 ERA, 118 strikeouts in 115.1 innings
Hitting: .309 average, four doubles, 12 RBIs

Alexis Kilfoyl’s other accomplishments:

  • First year Team USA member
  • 2016 Junior Olympic Cup Champion,
  • Placed third at 2015 USA Softball 14U Nationals
  • Named 2015 Team MVP at Gainesville GOLD USA Softball Nationals
  • Competed at 2013 USA Softball 12U Nationals
  • Played for the East Cobb Bullets Schnute 18U and Gainesville Gold McFadyen 16U

What it means to represent the United States: “It’s a dream come true. It’s the biggest honor to wear the letters ‘USA’ across your chest.”

What she enjoys most about softball: “I love working together as a team and the friendships that I have made. I love how everyone is different and works hard in their position. I love the feeling of striking people out and know that if I don’t, I have a team behind me that has my back.”

How she got started playing softball: “I first watched my older brother play baseball when I was 5 years old, so I gave softball a try and absolutely hated it. My dad asked if I would continue to play if he coached the team, and I agreed. I was 7 years old at the time.”

-Stats compiled using maxpreps.com

Published July 26, 2017

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