Summer of elite softball hones Central pitcher’s skills
Duffy strikes Gold on diamond
Mikayla Duffy is like most high school athletes, hoping to one day play college sports.
This summer, Duffy took a big step toward achieving that dream.
The Central High School junior played for the Colorado Stars Gold 18-under competitive softball team.
The 14 Colorado players traveled across the United States, playing teams in Amateur Softball Association and United States Specialty Sports Association tournaments. Gold is the highest level of competitive softball in the two associations.
“This summer was a big eye-opener,” Duffy said. “My team was so talented behind me that I knew no matter where it was hit, they were going to be backing me up.”
Duffy pitched and played first base and outfield for the Stars. Duffy earned a reputation as a fierce pitcher last fall at Central, leading the Warriors to a Southwestern League championship and a 19-4 record.
During the state tournament, Duffy caught the attention of Stars coaches Erik Vessey and Tony Worth, who tried her out.
“At the state tournament they pulled me aside and I threw to them,” Duffy said. “I found out I made out it a couple of weeks later. I was hoping it would work out because playing Gold ball was a dream of mine.”
Duffy was added to a team of Colorado all-stars that included eight players who were playing in college or had signed with colleges before their senior season.
Duffy knew it would be a big jump for her, but she handled the challenge.
“I didn’t do as bad as I thought I was going to do,” Duffy said. “I learned quickly that you can’t just throw it down the middle as fast as you can. You have to throw to a spot or have some movement on it.”
Duffy played tournaments in Las Vegas, Indiana and Oregon, where she saw a lot of quality competition. She recalled a tournament in Arizona that gave her a huge confidence boost.
“We played the Arizona Hot Shots and their pitcher had already signed to Arizona State University,” Duffy said. “I was nervous because I had never thrown against a team of that caliber. But I got two ground balls and a strikeout in the first inning, so I was excited.”
But by that point in the season Duffy had learned her opponents weren’t intimidated or scared of her. She had to bring her best stuff on every pitch.
“With those teams it’s like going against a No. 4 hitter every time,” Duffy said. “You have to be on your game, and be thinking of the next play all the time.”
As for the future, Duffy said playing with the Stars will help her be a better leader for the high school season. Duffy will be Central’s No. 1 pitcher, and one of its top hitters.
“I learned so much more about the game,” Duffy said. “I am now going to try and help the Central girls learn more about the game and realize that if you mess up, it will make you a lot better player.”
Duffy said she contacted coaches from Indiana University and Northern Illinois for feedback on how she should improve. College coaches will be eligible to start recruiting Duffy on Sept. 1, even though she has two years of high school remaining.
Practice for the fall high school softball season begins Aug. 17.