Desert Vista’s senior centerfielder Naomi Ricciotti started off the double-elimination first round matchup in the Division I tournament game with a line drive single to right field. Then Mesa Mountain View senior pitcher Valerie Kaff shut the door.
Kaff struck the side out. Then within a blink of an eye Kaff was ending the game with her 20th “K” of the night. It was almost boring to watch, as Kaff sat down seemingly every Desert Vista batter swinging.
“I was just hitting all my spots,” Kaff said. “I knew my defense had my back.”
The defense did have Kaff’s back, for one out. A lineout to second base to lead off the seventh inning prevented a possible 21-strikeout game — something that is more likely to be seen in a video game rather than a state tournament.
Neither Kaff nor her coach Joe Goodman knew the exact strikeout total until the end of the game.
“When she’s on, you hope you can score some runs and she’ll hold up,” Goodman said.
Kaff never wavered after the team took a 2-0 lead and went on to record the 4-0 victory. She never lost her composure; even though batters hugged the plate so tight it looked like a couple of were standing outside the box.
“The thing about her is she is so mentally tough that she doesn’t even care,” Goodman said.
Kaff used this aggressiveness to her advantage, ringing pitches off the inside of the bats. Foul balls flew over the first base dugout fence clanging off the bleachers in the field adjacent. However, when Kaff needed her out pitch she got it and improved her strikeout total to 403 this season, a career high.
When asked how she will repeat this performance as the team continues through the postseason, Kaff deferred all of the attention to her teammates, saying “It’s not about the individual but the team.”
At least for one out it is.