Bishop Eustace pitcher Izzy Kelly zones out in the pitcher’s circle.
Kelly goes through each opposing lineup one pitch at a time. Even when she pitched a five-inning, 15 strikeout, perfect game in a 17-0 victory against Cherry Hill East, the senior had to be reminded of her performance by coach Macie McGeehan as she walked off the field.
“When I throw, I really don’t think at all,” said Kelly, who will continue her softball career at James Madison University. “I don’t really realize how many strikeouts I’m getting. I try to play as loose as I can, so I try not to overthink each pitch that I throw.”
Kelly has racked up 116 strikeouts through eight games, including a season-high 21 in a 10 inning, 4-3 loss against Eastern on April 3. Her 116 strikeouts are already more than half of the 144 she recorded last season.
With 427 career strikeouts, Kelly says she wants to reach 500 before the season ends.
Kelly has helped lead Bishop Eustace to a 7-1 record, which ranks first in the South Jersey Group 2 Olympic-National standings.
“Izzy’s been dominating everything,” sophomore catcher Maddie Grubb said. “Honestly, without her, I don’t think that we have the record that we do.”
Grubb is on the receiving end of Kelly’s “killer” screwball and curveball. The two didn’t play with each other before this season, but Kelly said she quickly developed chemistry with Grubb.
The catcher calls the pitches for Kelly during the game. After warm-ups, Kelly and Grubb go over how they’re going to attack the opponents’ lineup.
McGeehan, a first-year coach, said she let Grubb call the pitches because she wanted the catcher and Kelly to have the freedom to control the flow of the game. After Kelly struck out eight of nine Haddonfield batters in Bishop Eustace’s first scrimmage, McGeehan was sold on the duo working together.
“I trust them,” McGeehan said. “If they ever get in a jam, I’ll call the pitches, but they’ve done a really good job. Izzy knows what works for batters, which helps.”
But Kelly didn’t always know how to work batters with the location and movement of her pitches. She still remembers when she first started pitching for the Mount Laurel Storm, a recreational softball team, at age 9.
“I definitely got lit up on the mound when I first started pitching,” Kelly said. “It did make me want to work that much harder. I was definitely determined.”
Kelly played with older players growing up. When she was 14 years old, she played for the Rock Gold 18U softball team in New Jersey. Kelly said because she played in an older league, her game matured faster compared to other players her age.
She worked every day in her backyard with her dad to perfect the release point and location of her screwball and curveball. Even on off days, Kelly is in her garage doing drill work to help her get more of a push off the mound.
“She’s extremely focused from the second she steps on the field,” McGeehan said. “She wants to win every single pitch. … Her pitching game is incredible.”