One of area’s most dominant softball players ever has again proved she’s tops in the entire Sunshine State.
Academy at the Lakes (AATL) senior pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl has been named 2019 Gatorade Florida Softball Player of the Year, given to the state’s best softball player, regardless of classification.
When it comes to receiving the notable distinction, the Wildcats star is on familiar ground.
The 6-foot-2 right-handed ace and first base slugger won the award last year, too, making her just the third two-time winner from the state, joining Dunnellon’s Kasey Fagan (2009-10) and Spruce Creek’s Kelsi Dunne (2006-07). Kilfoyl is the only Pasco County softball player to have ever won the award.
The Gatorade State Player of the Year award was established in 1985 “to recognize the nation’s most outstanding high school student-athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.”
The program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one national player of the year in each sport.
The honor is surely deserved for Kilfoyl, who’s set to join the University of Alabama softball program on scholarship this fall.
Equipped with a powerful arm and bat, Kilfoyl buoyed Academy at the Lakes to a 19-7 mark and its second straight FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) Class 2A state title last month in Vero Beach.
In the May 21 state championship game — an 11-0 shutout over Mount Dora Christian Academy — Kilfoyl fired a six-inning no-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the circle, and drove in two runs and scored another on two hits at the plate.
Kilfoyl also pitched a one-hit, nine strikeout complete game shutout in the Class 2A semifinals win over Palatka Penel Baptist Academy, while adding in four runs on two hits of her own.
The state finals were a microcosm of sorts for Kilfoyl’s senior campaign and her entire Wildcats career, for that matter.
She registered a 14-1 record with a 0.48 ERA, striking out 134 batters in 72.2 innings pitched, while allowing just 15 hits in 2019. She also produced the best hitting season of her varsity career, posting a .563 batting average with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs, compiling a .653 on-base percentage and a 1.188 slugging percentage.
Making it all the more impressive: Kilfoyl did it all while nursing a trapezius strain, which forced her to abstain from pitching for about a month in the middle of the season.
Because of that, Kilfoyl actually wasn’t expecting to repeat as state player of the year.
“It definitely was kind of a shocker,” Kilfoyl said, “because my pitching stats weren’t the greatest compared to other pitchers that had that month to get their stats up that much more, so I definitely was very surprised and it almost felt very relieving to know that missing one month can’t kill you.”
What Kilfoyl may have lacked in total innings pitched, she more than made up for with the bat, notching career highs in virtually every statistical category.
The month of pitching missed allowed her to better fine-tune her approach at the plate, she said.
“I think because hitting was mainly the only thing I could do, that was my main focus, and I think definitely had something to do with it,” Kilfoyl said, of her batting numbers.
The 2019 season puts a bow on what’s been a lengthy varsity career at AATL, one that began when Kilfoyl was in the seventh grade.
In her previous five seasons combined, Kilfoyl had a 76-15 record, with a 1.13 earned run average and 842 strikeouts across 571.1 innings pitched. She also generated a .466 batting average with 17 home runs, 38 extra base hits and 129 RBIs in 104 games.
For most of her career, Kilfoyl has been widely regarded as one of the nation’s top prep pitchers and college prospects, being named the No. 5 recruit overall in the Class of 2019 by Softball America.
Kilfoyl and Land O’ Lakes High School senior pitcher Callie Turner are among just 20 athletes nationwide who’ve been selection to the 2019 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Training Team. Kilfoyl also made the junior national squad back in 2017, then the team’s youngest member as a 16-year-old sophomore.
Reflecting on her prep career, Kilfoyl said: “I feel like I did accomplish everything that was possible. I definitely feel like I’ve done everything that I could, and couldn’t have done it any other way, no better way to end it.”
And, helping the AATL softball program win its first state title last year goes down as her all-time favorite moment. It was an 11-inning, rain-soaked pitcher’s duel in which the Wildcats defeated Monticello Aucilla Christian 1-0.
“Winning states last year was the most memorable,” Kilfoyl said. “The game was such neck-and-neck, and we didn’t know if we were going to win.”
Kilfoyl, who also was a standout volleyball and basketball at AATL, isn’t the only high-profile athlete in her family, remarkably.
Her older brother, Darin, is a 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher at Division I University of North Florida. He previously starred on the baseball diamond at AATL and St. Johns River State College. Their younger brother, Andrew, is a rising junior offensive lineman at Gaither High School, who is already garnering Division I interest as a 6-foot-5, 275-pound left tackle. Andrew transferred to Gaither after earning All-State honors in the eight-man football ranks at AATL each of the last two seasons.
Kilfoyl said the family regularly works out together, challenging one another for athletics accomplishments.
“We definitely push each other,” Kilfoyl said, “but then there is also kind of a little bit of competitive side to us, like, ‘Oh I did this better than you,’ just how like siblings are.”
Lexi Kilfoyl – 2019 stats
Pitching: 72.2 innings pitched, 12-1 record, 0.48 ERA, 134 strikeouts, 15 walks, .061 batting average against, .122 on-base percentage against
Batting: .562 batting average, 12 home runs, 12 doubles, 37 RBI, 21 runs, 45 hits, .653 on-base percentage, 1.187 slugging percentage
Published June 19, 2019