In the midst of the best season of her prep career, Lexi Kinnaird attempted to describe the secret to her increased production on the softball diamond.
The dual-threat Clear Creek Amana senior has already established career highs in nearly every major offensive statistical category.
In the circle, her ERA is down and her strikeout rate is up from a season ago.
In nearly every facet of the game Kinnaird is enjoying a career year.
The secret to her success, Kinnaird explained, isn’t really a secret at all.
“I put a lot of work into both pitching and hitting,” Kinnaird said. “The offseason is when I put in a lot of time and it has definitely paid off this year. There isn’t really a secret, I have just put in a lot of time and work.
A part-time starter as a sophomore, Kinnaird has turned into a testament of what time and work can do.
Two years removed from her backup role the Kinnaird has become a team leader as both a pitcher and hitter for a Clear Creek Amana squad seeking its second consecutive state tournament berth.
“She has worked really hard to be successful in both areas and what I think is one of her great abilities that has allowed her to be successful on both ends is to keep them separate,” Clear Creek Amana coach Barb Lynn said. “Her ability to focus on what needs to be focused on has allowed her to be strong in all areas.”
Kinnaird went 6-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 632/3 innings as a sophomore.
Last year the right-hander flourished in her role as the Clippers’ top pitcher.
Kinnaird went 18-10 with a 1.65 ERA and 202 strikeouts last season while helping Clear Creek Amana reach the Class 4A state tournament.
This season, Kinnaird has built on those numbers.
She was 11-4 with a career-low 1.41 ERA entering play this week and is striking out batters at the highest rate of her career.
Kinnaird is averaging 1.35 strikeouts per inning this season, up from her average of 1.11 a year ago, while lowering her WHIP to .963, down from 1.04 last year.
“Last year was my first chance to really show people what I could do pitching and I definitely think I have made improvements,” Kinnaird said. “I’m more confident this season.”
Kinnaird has improved in the circle, but her biggest strides have come at the plate.
After collecting just three at-bats as a sophomore and batting.242 last season, Kinnaird has emerged as a true threat in the middle of the Clippers’ order.
She entered the week batting .322 with a team-high five home runs and 24 RBI.
“Last year I kind of struggled hitting but this year I have seen a lot of improvement,” Kinnaird said. “I’ve seen the hard work that I put into hitting this winter pay off.”
Entering play this week Kinnaird had equaled her season total of seven doubles from a year ago.
After walking twice and striking out 26 times a year ago, Kinnard has drawn 10 walks while cutting her strikeouts to 10 in 90 at-bats.
“I think just her mental approach has improved,” Lynn said. “Her ability to have peak performances when the pressure is on against great teams. She is a competitor and you know that she is going to bring everything that she can to the big games. We can count on her offensively and defensively.”
Kinnaird showcased her versatility last week when she registered a perfect game and a home run in less than 24 hours.
She tossed a three-inning perfect game, striking out six in a 12-0 win over South Tama and belted a solo home run the following day in a loss to Regina.
“The perfect game was pretty exciting just because it was my first one, my defense was great and it always feels good to help the team out when I can,” Kinnaird said. “To get the home run, I don’t know which one is better, it’s great both ways.”
Kinnaird will focus on pitching next season at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, but before she turns her attention to the next level she hopes to help the Clippers return to the state tournament.
Clear Creek Amana had won 8-of-11 games entering Tuesday’s WAMAC doubleheader against Williamsburg, upping its record to 18-13 on the season.
“I think we are definitely taking steps in the right direction, I think that are still places that we need to improve but every team has that,” Kinnaird said. “We are taking steps in the right direction and it is going to be a tough road but I know that our team will come together and we will make things happen and hopefully return to the state tournament.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.
• Grade: Senior
• Position: P/1B
• Batting Average: .322
• Home runs: 5
• Runs batted in: 24
• Record: 11-4
• ERA: 1.41
• Innings Pitched: 891/3
• Strikeouts: 121