Douglas boasts power, depth in strong rotation
It seems almost unfair.
No matter who the Douglas softball team has put on the mound this season, Lady Tiger opponents have found themselves facing up against one of the best pitchers in the state.
Kayla Dunn. Kellei Kizer. Brittany Puzey.
There isn’t one name in Douglas’ starting rotation that opposing coaches would prefer seeing over another.
“It’s a luxury that not many teams have, especially here in the Northern 4A,” Douglas head coach Todd Wilcks said. “Out of the four top pitchers in the North, we probably have three of them.”
The rotation has been nothing short of dominant all season. The three have compiled an 18-6 record, striking out 191 batters in 155.3 innings and allowing only 25 earned runs.
“They are all throwing so well right now,” Wilcks said. “They’re pretty phenomenal. When they are on, it’s fun while we’re sitting over there calling pitches to kind of say, ‘watch this.'”
And there are plenty of pitches to choose from.
While Dunn, Kizer and Puzey are all predominantly power pitchers, each boasts a full slate of pitches they can throw at opposing batters.
Puzey is perhaps the most versatile, throwing a screwball, curveball, dropball, riseball, change up and, of course, a fastball.
“Sometimes it’s fun, if my change up is working good, to throw it and watch people fall on their face,” Puzey said. “I love throwing curveballs too. I’ve always been more of a power pitcher, but this year I have been trying to work a lot more on my pitches and throw a lot more changeups. That has helped a lot.”
Dunn throws a fastball, forkball, change up and a riseball.
“I’m definitely a power pitcher,” Dunn said. “I can hit my spots, but I miss a lot. My forkball is pretty much just a moving fastball — it breaks outside a lot.
“I like to jam people, so I like throwing my fastball inside. A lot of people can’t get around on it, so if I can jam them inside, they are not going to do anything with the ball.”
Kizer boasts a curve, a riseball, a fastball and a change up.
“I love throwing my inside riseball,” Kizer said. “I love it, it works so good. It’s my out pitch.”
Puzey has only allowed two earned runs in 50 innings. Dunn bears the brunt of the workload, having pitched 69 innings this season. Kizer has 44 strikeouts in just over 36 innings.
As a team, combined with pitchers Kaitlyn Crawford and Stevie Smith, the Lady Tigers have an earned run average of 1.02.
“Pitchers can be so dominating in this game,” Wilcks said. “We can throw any of the three at any time and we don’t lose anything.
“Not everybody is going to be on every single day. That’s the nice thing about this group. If someone is not clicking, we can switch immediately and go right back in stride.”
Such was the case at the Reed Easter Tournament several weeks ago.
Kizer shut down Sierra Vista out of Las Vegas through four innings in the championship game. After getting into a jam in the fifth, Dunn came in to close out the game and pick up the save.
“We brought Kayla in, and bam, we were immediately back to where Kellei had us through the first four innings,” Wilcks said. “Their coach made the comment, ‘Now who is THAT girl?'”
Wilcks said another benefit is in not showing opposing coaches his entire arsenal at once.
The Lady Tigers, currently ranked No. 3 in the state by the Reno Gazette-Journal, took on McQueen, currently ranked No. 2., also at the tournament.
Kizer again started that game, against McQueen ace Katie Eshelman. Although the Tigers lost 3-0, Kizer didn’t allow any earned runs and struck out nine in the process.
“We’ve seen her (Eshelman) once now,” Wilcks said. “So every time we play McQueen, we’ll have already seen their No. 1 starter, while they have only seen one of our aces.”
“It makes me more confident,” Puzey said. “Having two other aces in the rotation is really helpful. And Val Smith does a great job catching behind the plate, so you can throw a riseball or a drop in the dirt and you know she’ll catch it.”
“If I’m in trouble, I know that I have two arms behind me that can get the job done,” Dunn said. “I’m not worried at all.”
But perhaps the best part of the story for the Tigers is that each ace is only a junior.
“That’s the thing,” Wilcks said. “They may be juniors, but they don’t play like it. All three are seasoned players.”
“When they hit their spots, they are awesome,” Douglas catcher Val Smith, also a junior, said. “I love them to death, they are great.
“I’m excited about next year. This year we are really strong and our seniors are so important to this team. Our pitching just helps amplify how strong we are.”
W L SV IP R ER H SO BB ERA
Brittany Puzey 8 1 1 50 12 2 26 68 7 0.28
Kayla Dunn 6 2 1 69 21 11 45 79 25 1.11
Kellei Kizer 4 3 – 36 23 12 25 44 13 2.03
– Joey Crandall can be reached at email@example.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.