The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Shattering records

    John Koenig

    “Ten strikeouts and the win” are two statistics junior ace pitcher Mallory McKinney has heard a lot of over her career on the UW-Eau Claire softball team. The Blugolds’ newly crowned strikeout queen began her career at a young age, like most athletes at the college level.

    “I started playing slow-pitch softball when I was 8 and moved to fast pitch at 12,” McKinney said. “Out of all the sports I tried, softball was definitely my best.”

    McKinney started her path to dominance as a pitcher right away in her youth, but did not confine herself to one position.

    “I played first base, right field and designated player, which is like a designated hitter in baseball,” she said.

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    McKinney said she would play catch and practice with her father three to four times a week, and both her parents supported her talent for pitching.

    When she was a junior in high school at Champlin Park, Minn., McKinney attracted the attention of college-level programs, including St. Mary’s (Minn.) and Eau Claire.

    “Our team wasn’t very good in high school, but St Mary’s and Eau Claire were equal in the quality of their softball program,” McKinney said. “When it came down to it, I really liked the Eau Claire campus and coaches and I saw a bright future in the (Eau Claire) softball program.”

    McKinney amazed coach Leslie Huntington the first time she saw McKinney pitch and how hard she threw the ball, Huntington said.

    McKinney played for a competitive travel team at the time, and Huntington said she knew McKinney had the potential to succeed in college with her arm, as well as her bat.

    McKinney began playing her freshman year at Eau Claire, splitting time with the starting upperclassmen pitchers. As the season progressed, she grew into the spot of the No. 1 pitcher, something she said that came as a surprise.

    “When a player makes that transition from high school to college, you never know what to expect from them,” Huntington said.

    McKinney said she knew from the beginning of her college career that she was going to face better hitters than in high school. To improve her play, she worked hard to continually hit her spots and make her pitches move more to confuse opposing batters.

    The extra effort paid off and against UW-Whitewater Sunday, McKinney broke the school record for career strikeouts. She tallied 346 strikeouts and has another year left of eligibility for the Blugolds.

    “(It) was not something I ever thought about,” she said of breaking the school strikeout record. “Pitching at the college level feels pretty good, but I have a great defense backing me up.”

    Being such a dominant force inside the circle, McKinney leads the team in wins (18), strikeouts (121), opponent batting average (.159) and is second in earned runs allowed (.60) in 2006.

    In addition, McKinney adds a hitting dimension to her game by coming in the top five on the team for batting average (.362), runs batted in (29) and home runs (7) for the 2006 season.

    “Mallory is a vital reason for our success,” Huntington said. “Her leadership in the pitching circle and at the plate does a ton for the team.”

    Even with constant praise, McKinney is insistent on not accepting all the credit for her accomplishments as a versatile player.

    “I couldn’t be successful without my great teammates and coaches to support me,” she said.

    Despite holding the Blugold strikeout record as a junior, McKinney said she has one thing left to accomplish with the ‘Golds before she graduates. “We want to win a national championship; that’s our main goal as a team.”

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