Friday, November 16, 2018

State-bound softball aces share bond beyond the mound

LAND O’LAKES — In fourth grade, Callie Turner made her pitching debut in a Little League softball game. The opposing pitcher was Alexis Kilfoyl.

The two continued to cross paths on the mound. They talked to each other, discovering they shared more in common than just a position. They liked goofing around and going to the mall.

Still, the biggest bond was softball.

Turner and Kilfoyl became close friends. They take lessons from the same pitching coach. They are roommates during their countless travel ball tournaments in the summer. They offer advice and encouragement to each other.

That camaraderie has helped the high school juniors develop into two of the nation’s top five pitchers in the class of 2019 according to FloSoftball.

Now they will each try to lead their teams to state titles.

Turner, the reigning Tampa Bay Times’ North Suncoast pitcher of the year, won the Class 6A title last season. She is a big reason the Gators are back in the state semifinals for the third straight season.

Kilfoyl has played a pivotal role in Academy at the Lakes’ run to the Class 2A state semifinals, marking the program’s second appearance ever.

“It would be a pretty neat thing to be able to go out and win state titles in the same season,” Kilfoyl said. “It’s something we can talk about years down the road.”

There are more ties that link these pair of aces. Their fathers — Dave Turner and Homer Kilfoyl — both work for Delta Airlines. And they both live in the same Land O’Lakes neighborhood, less than a five-minute car ride apart.

But the two are vastly different, in personality and in pitching styles.

Turner is bubbly and outgoing, something that is noticeable right away. Kilfoyl is more reserved and shy, at least, she says, until you get to know her.

On the mound, Turner relies on angles, using her curveball and riseball to get batters to whiff. Kilfoyl mixes up her velocity, focusing on the dropball, screwball and changeup to mesmerize opponents.

Both can hurl a softball at nearly 70 mph. And their approaches are equally effective.

Turner has racked up more than 200 strikeouts each of the past two seasons. So has Kilfoyl.

“We may seem different in a lot of ways,” Turner said. “But we get along really well.”

At a travel ball tournament in California this past summer, the two went to a trampoline park along with some teammates. The trip was cut short when a teammate injured her ankle, sidelining her for two days.

“We got in a little trouble for going, but not as much as some others,” Kilfoyl said. “Callie and I were both pretty cautious.”

During their summer travels, Turner and Kilfoyl shop at whatever mall they can find.

“It’s pretty fun to be teammates in the summer,” Turner said.

In high school, they have faced each other twice. They split their meetings, Turner winning last year and Kilfoyl this season. Both were 1-0 games that were decided in the final inning.

This past week, the two have gone on Snapchat or sent text messages offering congratulations on reaching the state semifinals. Both are hoping to attend each other’s games.

In two years, they move on to college.

Once again, they will have to face each other on the mound.Turner has committed to Tennessee. Kilfoyl has decided to go to Alabama.

“We’ll always have that connection and try to push each other to become the best, even in college,” Turner said.

State softball semifinals

At Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach (weather permitting)

Class 6A: Land O’Lakes vs. Clay, 2:50 p.m. Saturday

Class 2A: Academy at the Lakes vs. Lake Worth Christian, 11:50 a.m. Monday

Class 3A: Admiral Farragut vs. John Carroll Catholic, 4:50 p.m. Monday

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