SAN JOSE -- The state high school record book for softball does not have a category for strikeouts per inning. But if it did, Valley Christian junior Brynne Fitzpatrick most likely would be on pace to finish near the top.
With 16 more strikeouts in a victory Tuesday over Sacred Heart Cathedral, Fitzpatrick has 286 strikeouts in 133 innings this season, an average of 2.15 per frame for the Cal commit.
To put that into context, the great Keilani Ricketts averaged 2.38 strikeouts per inning as an Archbishop Mitty senior in 2009. She went on to become a two-time national college player of the year while starring at Oklahoma.
"Anything above two per inning is going to be really exceptional," said Mark Tennis, editor of Cal-Hi Sports.
Fitzpatrick has pitched so exceptionally well this spring, no matter the competition, she is undoubtedly having one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the Central Coast Section.
Doing it against the best
In a marquee game last week against previously unbeaten Mitty, a team loaded with talent and ranked No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps, Fitzpatrick struck out 16 as Valley Christian won 3-1.
In the previous game against Mt. Pleasant, a team that reached a CCS final last season, Fitzpatrick had 18 strikeouts in a 6-0 victory. Of the eight games Valley Christian has played against teams ranked in the Mercury News Top 15, Fitzpatrick averaged 14.25 strikeouts per outing.
"To put those type of numbers against any other school, sometimes in high school it's like, 'She did it, but it wasn't against Mitty or it wasn't against a San Benito or one of the top teams," Valley Christian coach Rigo Gutierrez said. "I think validation came that it was against a Mitty, that she had the same numbers she would have had against any other program."
Quite a turnaround
What makes Fitzpatrick's numbers even more impressive is that last season she was not nearly as dominant. Slowed by a back injury, she struck out 83 in 931/3 innings and had an 8-5 record.
Determined to get better, Fitzpatrick began to work again with personal pitching coach Brandy Bailey, spending the hot summer hours pitching and running, session after session. "I've watched that kid go from mediocre to probably the best pitcher I've seen," Bailey said. "For 16 years old, to have come so far from May, not even a whole year yet, her work ethic is just incredible. I've given her the tools, but she's the one that's actually had to do it. I'm just amazed by the change that I've seen from last year to this year."
One person who is not amazed is Fitzpatrick, simply because she knows how much she put into improving and that she has complete trust in her coaches, from those at Valley Christian to Bailey, her teammates and her school's training staff. Her ERA for the season is 0.26.
"The success that one person has stems from a whole team unit," Fitzpatrick said.
On the rise
Fitzpatrick, who says she stands 5-foot-10 and one-quarter, has a variety of pitches at her disposal. But it is no secret which one is her go-to pitch.
"Everyone's always like, 'We know you have the rise ball.' And I'm like, 'OK, but I am still going to throw it,'" Fitzpatrick said. "I am not scared to throw it. It's my favorite pitch."
Fitzpatrick did not open the season in total command. She walked 27 in her first five starts (5.4 per game) and was 2-3. In her past 15 starts, she has walked 32 (2.13 per game) and is 14-1. The control issues, she said, boiled down to figuring out which pitches she could rely on during the season. Now, if all goes according to plan, Fitzpatrick will step into the pitching circle next Tuesday at Valley Christian with a chance to defeat Mitty again. If Valley Christian wins, it will probably share the West Catholic Athletic League regular-season championship with the Monarchs.
"That's the plan, to win everything from here on out," Fitzpatrick said.