Original Article By Rick Brown,Tampa Bay Times
LAND O’LAKES — Confidence is an intangible in sports that can’t be overlooked. If a team has it, there is no win that is out of reach. One game can take a good team and turn it great.
The Academy at the Lakes softball team has been a good team for the past five seasons. But one team — Canterbury — has been better, knocking the Wildcats out of the playoffs in each of those five seasons.
This year, there’s a different feeling surrounding AATL. The Wildcats already knew they had the players to make another run in Class 2A. But after shutting out defending state champion Canterbury 2-0, the Wildcats are eying a bigger prize — a state title.
While it is still early in the season, the Wildcats are starting to get noticed not only in Class 2A but in Tampa Bay. Coming off a school-record 20 wins in 2017, the Wildcats are 8-0, having outscored teams 65-1. They’re ranked third in the Tampa Bay Times’ area top 25. They don’t intend on stopping now.
“I think we’ve definitely improved as the games have gone by and hopefully we’ll continue to do that,” said pitcher Alexis Kilfoyl, one of just two juniors on the team. “Our hitting has gotten better since we’ve seen more live pitching.”
A big reason for the team’s success has been clutch hitting, led by freshman Brooke Blankenship, as well as the dominant pitching of junior Kilfoyl.
Kilfoyl, who has committed to Alabama, is 6-0 and has not allowed a run. She has allowed just eight hits, while striking out 59 and walking just four.
“She’s a fierce competitor,” coach Diane Stephenson said. “She doesn’t want anyone to hit her. She goes about pitching a game like a business venture — she’s all in.”
Blankenship, who has committed to Florida State, is batting .500. She has four doubles, one triple, two homers and seven RBIs to go with 13 runs scored.
“I haven’t been around but a handful of kids who work harder than Brooke,” Stephenson said. “She’s extremely dedicated. She’ll work for hours on her craft and is not afraid to work.”