Local softball sensations make junior national team

They’ve bewildered hundreds of batters.

They’ve won state titles.

They’ve earned state player of the year honors.

They’ve signed with powerhouse Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools.

Academy at the Lakes’ Lexi Kilfoyl and Land O’ Lakes High School’s Callie Turner have raked in their fair share of achievements across their prep fastpitch softball careers.

And, the latest, places the pitching sensations together on the national stage.

Academy at the Lakes senior pitcher and Alabama signee Alexis Kilfoyl is one of just 20 athletes nationwide chosen to the 2019 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Training Team. She also made the team in 2017. (Courtesy of USA Softball)

Kilfoyl and Turner are among just 20 athletes nationwide chosen to the 2019 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Training Team.

The high school seniors made the under-19 team following a three-day tryout in Clearwater in December; they were evaluated by members of the Women’s National Team Selection Committee.

Kilfoyl and Turner represent the only selections from Florida. Others on the roster represent just eight additional states (Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas).

Both being from Land O’ Lakes — and close friends, at that — makes the prestigious designation that much sweeter.

Kilfoyl and Turner’s friendship began when they played Little League together, and has been forged through high school and travel ball.

The bond is sure to continue, even as college rivals at the University of Alabama and University of Tennessee, respectively.

“We’re just like really close,” said Turner. “I’d probably say she’s one of my best friends with all that stuff.”

“It’s definitely crazy how things worked out,” Kilfoyl said, “because…we’ve been there for each other pretty much our entire softball careers.”

That was the case in point during the national team tryouts.

Kilfoyl, a 6-foot-1 right-hander, made the squad back in 2017 — then the team’s youngest member as a 16-year-old sophomore.

Knowing what to anticipate, Kilfoyl guided Turner throughout the tryout process, calming her nerves.

“She was kind of my mentor,” said Turner, a 5-foot-10 left-hander. “If she wasn’t there, I’d probably be a little bit more uncomfortable but, since she was there, it really helped me with being comfortable.

Alexis Kilfoyl

“It was really like nerve-wracking at the beginning, just because like everyone that was there deserved to be there because of their talent.”

Kilfoyl added, “Being there two years ago, I knew what to expect, so I explained it to her and it helped a little bit more, and she knew what was coming and there were no surprises for her.”

Turner recalls “tears of joy” upon discovering she made the team.

“I was crying,” she said, “just because it was definitely a hard-work experience getting there, so when you find you find out that your hard work actually paid off in some ways, it was really exciting.”

Kilfoyl, meanwhile, felt some added pressure to make the team a second time around as an older, more mature pitcher.

“It was definitely a relief knowing that they wanted me back again,” Kilfoyl said. “Getting the (selection) email was definitely a relief to know that all the hard work paid off.”

Proud to represent their schools, and Land O’ Lakes
“It really isn’t about one person,” Kilfoyl said. “It’s definitely about the whole team and the whole school.”

“I think it did bring a lot of pride,” Turner said. “People are still congratulating me to this day because it’s such an honor.”

Kilfoyl and Turner will compete in a training camp and exhibition games in Columbus, Georgia, at the 2019 USA Softball International Cup, throughout June and July.

The roster then will be trimmed to 17 athletes to participate in the WSBC (World Baseball Softball Confederation) Junior Women’s World Cup, in August, in Irvine, California.

Kilfoyl said the experience back in 2017 helped heighten her overall level of play.

Specifically, because she was practicing alongside the nation’s top talents, facing elite international competition, and getting instruction from renowned Division I college coaches.

“It was very beneficial,” Kilfoyl said. “I really got a feel of like what is expected at that age and how you have to be able to do everything right. You can’t leave balls over the plate when you’re pitching. You have to be able to locate very well, and you have to spin very well.”

Land O’ Lakes High School senior pitcher and Tennessee Callie Turner joins Kilfoyl on the U.S. junior national team. She made the team after a three-day tryout in December.

But, before they go off and compete for the United States this summer, Kilfoyl and Turner are gearing up for their high school softball swan songs.

Kilfoyl posted a 23-1 mark in the circle last season, with a 0.32 earned run average and 249 strikeouts in 154 innings pitched. She guided Academy at the Lakes to a 26-4 record and the Class 2A state championship.

She also produced a .482 batting average with five home runs, 35 RBI, a .585 on-base percentage and a .788 slugging percentage.

The play earned Kilfoyl 2017-2018 Gatorade Florida Softball Player of the Year honors, distinguishing her as the state’s best high school softball player.

Both players aim for continued excellence
Defending the team’s state championship this season is among Kilfoyl’s top priorities in 2019.

She wants the team to make it as far as it did last year.

“Winning a state championship would be crazy again, and I know we’re going to have a huge target on our backs and it’s going to be that much harder, but definitely want to do that again,” she said.

“As far as personal goals, I guess I’d like to push myself a little bit more.

“I definitely want to go into this year pitching every game like it’s a state championship game, striking out as many as I can and just having a bunch of energy,” Kilfoyl said.

Callie Turner

Turner has similar goals in mind.

After winning the Class 6A state crown in 2017, Land O’ Lakes fell just short of another last season. They went 25-7 and finished state runner-up after falling to Plantation American Heritage 5-1 in the Class 6A state championship game in May.

“I definitely want to end up on top this year,” Turner said. “Last year was kind of rough, just not getting over the peak, especially for our seniors.”

The two-time Class 6A Pitcher of the Year and 2018 Class 6A Player of the Year surely did her part for the team.

Turner posted a 17-6 mark with a 0.78 earned run average and 252 strikeouts in 153.1 innings pitched, including 20 complete games, a no-hitter and six shutouts. She also batted .309 and six RBIs in 65 plate appearances

In the quest to win a second state title in three years, Turner is fine-tuning her repertoire of pitches — changeup, curveball, riseball and dropball.

Turner said she wants to “keep on feeling comfortable with my pitches” and “try to get them more consistent.”

“Sometimes they don’t work, and I just want to be able to like rely on the pitches every time,” Turner said, “so just the practice of the basic things is what I really want to work on this season.”

Kilfoyl and Turner will likely match up against each other on April 23, when Academy at the Lakes hosts Land O’ Lakes in a nonconference game.

Published February 6, 2019

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